As a writer, you have a power that few other people have. You are a controller of minds and emotion. Here are three ways in which you can harness that power:
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Make your readers cry
Livia Blackburne did an awesome post about this a while back. In short, you need familiarity with the character for whom is to be cried. You’ll be hard-pressed to get readers to cry on page one. First, the reader must learn to care for the character and then to make them cry. Check out the post for details.
A way to harness this is by changing the chronological order of your story. Don’t start with the death of a loved one. Start after the death and reveal bits of information until you crescendo with the big emotional death scene. (Better yet, read Livia’s post)
Make your readers miss appointments
Donald Maass says that the thing that keeps people turning the pages is tension. That’s what makes them forget to walk the dog and miss appointments. As horrible as that sounds, that’s exactly what you want to happen.
A way to harness the tension is by posing knowledge gaps. The gap drives people crazy if they care about the subject. So reel them in and then leave them hanging to keep them turning the pages. Don’t let them have all the answers until they get to “The End”.
Make your readers think
A good book, like a good movie, stays in your mind for a long time after you’ve finished it. You’ll know what I mean if you can remember the thrum in your head as thoughts about the book or movie was flying around in your brain. No matter how insignificant the thoughts may seem, they grabbed you and that means that the writer did something right.
Things that are relevant to you are always noted first and remembered best, so the way to make your readers think is by making use of universal themes. Emotion is always a winner. E.g. Brothers reunited after a long struggle, or on the other side of the spectrum, the horror that isolation makes a person do. Also, leaving the reader with a question will make use of the knowledge gap and leave them thinking, e.g. should there be limits to where science goes?, or does that madness lurk in everyone’s mind?
Strangely enough, making people degenerate socially, cry and endlessly obsess does not put you in their bad books, but rather entices them more. Why is that? That’s another topic entirely.