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Put your reader to work

When you struggled through school, you spent most of your time writing for passive readers. You scooped up the facts, reorganized them, evaluated them, presented them in the easiest method (meaning: no effort for the reader) you could devise, and then you drew some conclusions for the reader and offered them.

In the business world, you do the same thing: Collect, organize, and serve up.

And if you've done any non-fiction (non-academic) writing, it was again a goal of yours to spoon-feed the reader the information you wanted to get across using all the powers of persuasion you could muster.

Fiction's different. Fiction writers invented virtual reality. We create setting by giving small glimpses, not entire pictures. We create tone/mood/atmosphere by whetting the reader's appetite with the presence of such ambiance. And we give birth to characters who didn't exist and imbue them with personalities and characterize them not by listing their physical statistics – eye color, hair color height, but by painting life into them by their behaviors.

Let your characters behave, think, act, decide, speak in such a way that each of these things builds a picture of the character in the reader's mind.

Rather than writing: Jim was a short man, and most people avoided him because he was mean-tempered.

Instead, involve your reader by making him draw conclusions rather than being told what to think: Without provocation, Jim lashed out with one of his boots on the end of his squat little legs and kicked the puppy begging for attention.