Monday, July 6, 2009

Getting Your Reader's Attention: It's Good For Me Too (4 of 5)

The topic of inspiration is the next question from Andy Stanley’s pod cast.

Why do they need to do it?

Years ago, people didn’t realize the danger of smoking. Smoking didn’t lose its popularity until people were able to explain that it is bad for people’s health and the health of the people around them. Today, people are being told to stop smoking with the added incentive that they may receive money from their employer. They have a reason to do it.

If we expect people to take action based on our novels, we must address the question of why they need to take action. As with showing what they need to do, we do this through the example of our characters or it will come across as preachy. We do so by either revealing the danger that our characters are in if the action isn’t taken, by showing the good that will come if people take action or both. In Uncle Tom’s Cabin, the call to action was an end to slavery and inhuman treatment. The reason that unfolds in the book is that while some of the slave owners treated their slaves relatively well, all slaves faced harsh treatment and death.

Most novels don’t start a civil war, but all should call their readers to action. One might call a person to be more brave or to participate in Bible study, but many fail because they don’t address why. It isn’t enough to have character doing these things. We must show the reader the benefits of doing so and the cost of not. The reader might see it as a good thing for other people and yet has not personal incentive to do the same. Wouldn’t it be great if our readers would put down our books and then go love their families better or study the Bible more or call their congressman about an issue? That isn’t going to happen if there isn’t a clear reason why they need to take action.

Next time, What can I do to help them remember?