|This topic sheet was originally
devised for the Exciting
Writing Foundation Course. There is a table of
links to other teaching resources towards the bottom of
The effects good of writing on readers/listeners
and what the writer must to do to create these effects
HOW DOES GOOD WRITING AFFECT THE READER/LISTENER?
- It grabs the attention immediately and holds it to the end.
- It says something new/interesting/educational.
- Perhaps it creates intrigue/tension/excitement.
- It raises/exercises issues in your mind. Perhaps it resolves
some of the issues. Perhaps it opens your mind to new experiences
and/or perspectives. Perhaps it challenges your way of thinking
about others, yourself or the world around you.
- Perhaps it plays upon your emotions, for example by making
you laugh and/or causing you undergo a series of different feelings
anger, pity, fear, empathy, nostalgia, embarrassment,
- Perhaps it creates visual images in your mind.
- Perhaps it evokes memories, prompting self-recognition.
- Perhaps it prompts a physical response, such as a tingling
feeling or a faster heart rate.
- Perhaps it deploys characters and makes them come to life.
- Perhaps it enables the reader to escape, in mind, from the
- It satisfies, but perhaps it leaves you wanting more.
- It makes you want to read/hear it again.
- Perhaps it has hidden meanings that are not necessarily apparent
- Perhaps it inspires the reader, for example to explore the
subject further or to change ones behaviour.
- Perhaps it is particularly evocative of a certain time or
- It is memorable.
- Perhaps it creates some metaphysical relationship between
writer and reader/listener, such as empathy or (one-sided!)
WHAT CAN THE WRITER DO TO HAVE THE DESIRED
EFFECTS ON THE READER/LISTENER?
(These answers cannot necessarily be readily applied
to all types of writing. For example, the concept of characterisation,
though crucial to plays and most stories, does not necessarily
apply to certain types of poetry.)
- Say things that the reader does not already know Offer
- Use compelling ideas, sounds, words, phrases, characters,
situations, etc that perhaps have a strong visual component.
- Invoke action.
- Stimulate memories. Excite emotions. Communicate enthusiasm.
- Perhaps use special writing styles and techniques that please
the (inner) ear for example assonance, metaphor, rhythm,
- Develop and deploy a logical framework of ideas, making the
text/action attractive, even if their full meaning is not immediately
- Use contrasting moods, for example to relieve extreme tension
or to enliven necessary description.
- Write clearly, for example using familiar language and grammar
unless there is a deliberate reason for not doing so.
- Work from each sentence to the next, luring the reader all
- Write from experience and with integrity.
- Perhaps use research to enhance authenticity.
- Create engaging, colourful, differentiated, sometimes empathetic
characters. Reveal their depths in the course of the work. Allow
at least some characters to develop in the course of the work.
- Avoid stereotypes, unless they are deliberately chosen and
- Avoid having too many characters.
- Create conflicts between characters and/or within individual
characters. Perhaps resolve some of the conflicts.
- Perhaps create internal cross-references (such as repetition
of key words or themes) to bind the narrative together and facilitate
- Perhaps create external references (such as allusions to other
works of literature) to stimulate readers with literary interests
and link the work to the wider body of literature.
- Hold back information that answers questions in the minds
of the readers until as late in the narrative as possible.
- Be concise Say only what needs to be said.
- Communicate universal truths.
- Set clear goals and work towards them.
- Be receptive to new ideas, not least your own. Experiment
freely as a means of developing your writing style, gaining
confidence and finding out what works and what does not.
- Set constraints, or be willing to accept them, and abide by
them. Constraints may slow down the process of writing, but
they usually cause the writer to think more deeply.
- Take time to reflect on what you have written. Think deeply
about how its effect on your readers may be improved. Never
be satisfied with second best.
- Write every day if possible, or at least every few days. Make
a timetable if necessary and stick to it.
- Keep writing materials ready at hand to capture fleeting moments
- Imagine your intended readers and their likely thought processes.
- Imagine the questions raised by your writing in others
minds and perhaps answer them.
- Invite others, especially other writers, to suggest ways in
which your work may be improved. Thank them for their criticism,
however painful it may feel, and reflect upon it. Offer to criticise
others work in return, taking care to criticise them as
you would like to be criticised: positively and constructively.