One Writer’s Journey

July 8, 2015

Building a Bridge

Rowling excelled at building bridges for her readers.

Rowling excelled at building bridges for her readers.

One of the keys to writing strong fiction and nonfiction is bridge building.  The fact of the matter is that any time you write about something that is unfamiliar, you have to build a bridge.  It doesn’t matter if you are writing nonfiction about a unfamiliar time period or fiction about a made up world, you have to build a bridge to give your reader access to this strange world that you laid out before them.

You build this bridge by giving the reader something familiar and recognizable.

This means that even if your characters are all giant bird-like creatures who communicate through ESP, you have to include something your reader will get.  One of the best ways to do this is through familiar problems or emotions.  Perhaps your bird-like protagonist doesn’t want to follow in mom and dad’s footsteps or she’s worried about not being as strong or fast as the others.  Anxiety or fear of disappointing a parent are both emotions that your reader will understand.

You can also insert a familiar element in an unfamiliar setting or situation.  The world of Harry Potter seemed strange and unique but it still had boarding schools, an element of British culture with which readers would immediately be familiar.  Young fans of the Avengers may not have super powers but the sibling-like jealousy and squabbling between the heroes?  That they understand.

Not only do they understand, they empathize because these are the kinds of things they’ve experienced in their own lives.  Using these kinds of elements you’ve made your characters sympathetic and recognizable even if they are feathered and never touch the ground.  Even as you set about creating a wonderful new world, be sure to keep your eyes open for the bridges that will let your reader follow you so that they too can enjoy the story.




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