A to Z Blogging Challenge – Day 9

I is for Implied Contract and Invisible Character

There’s an implied contract between the author and the reader that goes something like this: Give me your money and your time, and I’ll let you experience what it’s like to be:

A vampire in love
A traveller to another world
A scientist racing against time for a cure
A werewolf looking for his soulmate
A detective trying to solve a murder

You must take a hard look at the offer you’re making: would you accept it if you were the reader?

Most people suffer from emotional problems of their own that hurt so much they keep trying to push them down. Fiction can lure them into a vicarious experience that discharges these emotions.

You have no power to make anyone read anything. You are involved in a transaction with the reader; if you want them to read, you must offer them compensation.

In part, this implied contract can be fulfilled by the invisible character. In every scene in your novel or short story, the invisible character must be free to roam. This character is the reader. Your readers must be made welcome and allowed to ask questions and discover things for themselves.

Your role as an author is that of host; the reader is your guest. As a matter of courtesy you open the door and welcome the readers in, you show them around, introducing them to the characters, explaining things that may confuse them. You stay with them, making sure they always have a good view of what’s going on and making sure they have enough information to understand it.

If you’re writing the story from a third-person point of view, remember that you, the author, are as invisible as the reader. You can’t address them directly, but you can make sure they get the information they need.

Imagine, as you write, that the reader is constantly commenting on what he or she sees and is asking questions:

Who is the story about?
Why are they doing what they’re doing?
Who is the story or scene about?
Where does the story take place?
When does the story or scene take place?

If you don’t ask these questions, your readers are sure to, and you must know the answers to satisfy your invisible character.


mooderino said...

Very interesting post.

Jeffrey Pierce said...

I've never thought of it that way. Beautiful post - and food for thought. Thank you! :)

graceunderpressure said...

very good advice! I keep forgetting the reader is there, I'm busy explaining the characters to myself! :S

K.C. Woolf said...

Great post. I think the 'implied contract' is a very interesting way of looking at the interaction between writer and reader on the one hand, and reader and novel on the other.


Katie O'Sullivan said...

Interesting post and lots to ponder.
I'm your newest follower ;-)

Margo Lerwill said...

There's another aspect to the vicarious aspect of reading, I think. Back in my grad school days studying psychology, I got into a discussion with a doctor about the high incidence of mood disorders (especially bipolar disorders) in artists and specifically poets and writers. He theorized that it is the writer's greater range of emotion that allows them to take readers to places a normal person cannot go on their own for more than a short period of time during an exceptional experience (a wedding, death of a loved one, violent attack). The writer lets the reader touch the experience, but in a way that protects them from the fallout of the extremes.

Nofretiri said...

I totally agree with KatieO:
"Interesting post and lots to ponder." ... even it's a bit strange that I've never had that thougt, when I see myself as a director! Well, sometimes you obviously can't see the wood for the trees! *sigh* *lol*

Anyway, I finally catched up my lost weekend time and those two entries are now online:
H for Horror
I for Image

CU & keep writing


Cat Lavoie said...

Great post! :) You bring up some very interesting points. I'd never thought of the contract that links the writer and his/her audience.

alberta ross said...

I liked this - I do have an eye open for the reader but I alos wnat them to work hard - I wont just hand it to them on a plate!! I liked Margos comment on the emotion we allow our readers to experience within the safe confines of the pages. As a reader as well as a writer that is one of the aspects I enjoy. I try and give that to my readers as a writer - oh dear getting a little jumbled here - finish I enjoyed your posts girl

Anonymous said...

You have no power to make anyone read anything. You are involved in a transaction with the reader; if you want them to read, you must offer them compensation.

---absolutely true. And the questions you have asked are so crucial for any of us attempting fiction! Thanks, and I'm happy I stopped by :)

Marsha A. Moore said...

I like your viewpoint. It's obvious and simple, but one we as writers easily forget, being inside the forest. I enjoyed your reminder. Thanks!

Unknown said...

Wonderful post. I've never thought of that before, but I love the notion.

Sarah said...

You're absolutely correct. Apprehension and uncertainty are what keep readers engaged. I think too many authors forget this for the quick win of duplicating common themes that are popular/faddish. I get tired of reading stories where I'm not made to be curious, or where I know what'll happen by page ten. I stop reading those ... but a good story that keeps me guessing soon becomes one of my favorites! Lizzy Ford