What Makes a Writer’s Work Compelling?

Whether you write poetry or fiction in any genre,
you need this one attribute to attract readers’ engagement

The story is probably not engaging enough for kitty, hence, the yawn. Photo by Kanashi from Pixabay

PASSION for writing, especially creative writing, is not what is being referred to in this article.

Neither is the craving for gold (in terms of fees or royalties) and celebrity when one’s work, a book maybe, becomes a bestseller.

Being passionate is, of course, a must. But the necessity of passion towards a path to success can also be applied on other types of endeavour; like aiming for a corner office on the top floor, or collecting coffee mugs from all over the world.

For creative writers, passion is essential but not enough.

There is one thing that needs to be there, a certain presence if you will, while spinning verses or intertwining settings, narrations, narratives, episodes, and dialogues.

Let me share a few anecdotes first.

My US-based rocket scientist friend was watching a TV interview with a romance novelist. The interviewer asked what she felt while writing the saucy, sexy scenes in her novel. The reply, in essence, was that she felt nothing. She was simply creating what her readers expected.

My friend laughed.

He knew better.

Months previous to that, I shared with him my conversation with a small group of fellow romance writers. They were also my friends for years. Two of them were men. The conversation centred on the topic similar to what the TV interviewer asked the interviewee.

The male romance novelists (who wrote under female pen names) were the most forthcoming. One of them admitted to taking a quick break from his romance writing at midnight to interrupt his wife’s sleep.

The rest of us had a bout of laugh-out-loud moments during the one-time sharing session. We knew what we knew, and what we felt when it came to writing bed scenes, or even introducing scenes rife with sexual tension.


WRITING poetry, or ghost stories, horror fantasies or drama and comedies, even bedtime stories for children and other genres can be likened to writing romance in one sense.

You have to have a acute sense of what your characters are going through while you are creating your work.

Feel your chest constrict as you write your protagonist’s anguish; taste an insane glee when you write your knife-wielding, mad-killer character going for the throat of the victim.

Or perhaps be moved by the shock and hurt felt by your toddler character slipping on a pavement and bruising his/her knees.

Or feel the icy wind you are writing about as it slaps the numbed being of your broken-hearted heroine.

You get the picture.

A creative writer has to be empathetic, and not only for the primary characters but also for all other important characters.

How can a humorist expect the readers to laugh when the writer, while writing the funny parts, looks sour as vinegar that was well past its use-by date?

Or how can a romance writer titillate the readers’ penchant for sexual tension when the writer’s other half of the brain was thinking of what to cook for dinner later?

To create a compelling read, a writer has to be in the story, not half-wondering what to have for dinner.

And to be in the story, a creative writer melds with empathy for the characters. The empathetic writer is there as the protagonists and villains act, react, speak, love, laugh, or even when a character does a triple jump in a figure-skating competition, or plots another ghastly murder.

Be there in the story and be with the characters, but only in the creative mind, of course.

(After writing, disentangling oneself from being in the characters’ shoes and being in the story is a separate story for another day.)


First published by the Coffee Times on Medium.

I’d like to connect with you. Find me on LinkedIn | Twitter | Facebook | Medium | Vocal Media | Amazon Author’s Page | pinoypub.ph

5 responses to “What Makes a Writer’s Work Compelling?”

    • I think this (men writing under female pen names) is only true with romance novels. The accepted reasoning is that the readers of romance are generally female and that the latter can relate to romantic fiction penned by female writers.
      Not quite true on both counts. First, romance novels are also read by some men, and second, male romance writers hiding behind female pen names could be as effective in creating sexual tension and in plotting itself as female writers.
      Personally, I believe that both genders are on equal footing when it comes to creating powerful fiction, whatever genre.
      Thanks so much for dropping by, Krishha. I really appreciate it. Cheers!


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