Near the front of my library is a section displaying new books which the librarians believe readers might enjoy. They are shelved under four titles, Plot, People, Places and Prose, and it struck me that is exactly what writers need to ensure is in their each and every manuscript.
PLOT: Michael Hauge says it’s the writer’s job to ‘elicit emotion’ in the reader, so have you structured your plot to achieve that? If you’re writing a horror/mystery/thriller, have you built in the elements of fear and suspense. A fantasy? Wonderment. A love story? Hope, longing, challenges and celebration. A comedy? Will the reader laugh out loud?
PEOPLE: Are your characters three dimensional or stock? Have you created well-rounded ‘real’ people who move your plot forward organically by their actions, hopes, fears and choices? Or have you, the writer, moved them around, like pieces on a chess board, to suit your vision of the story?
PLACE: What’s your setting? Your world? Is it real and vibrant? Have you got the details – eg historical – right? Does your reader feel they are ‘there’. Can they touch, taste, hear, see, smell their surroundings.
PROSE: I once had the great pleasure to meet the author Maeve Binchy, and now, whenever I read one of her books, I hear her voice in my head in her cadence and description. Is your voice unique? Do you show rather than tell? Is your prose active rather than passive, drawing the reader in rather than holding them at arm’s length.
Get those four Ps right, and you are well on your way to finding YOUR book displayed on one of those library shelves!