Dazzle Your Reader Like a Will-o-the-Wisp

Every story is a straight line from start to finish, each word leading the reader unerringly to the last. The greatest danger we face as authors is not providing readers enough material to slow down, to stray from the path, and to explore the realms our straight line cannot cross.

Immersiveness. This is the sole difference between a good book and great one. And it’s as simple as flickering lights, far off, in the dead of night. So dig into that authorly bag of tricks and dazzle them. Shine those lights in the distance. Riddle your pages with clues, different kinds for different readers. Tempt them with allusions only they would catch. Fragments of song, paraphrased quotations, parallels to cultural figures. Plant signs and symbols, references to pop culture, classic myths, religious parables. Play with metaphor, with language. Hyperlink your work like a webpage. Hint at your other works, your favorite authors, your personal history.

Give your reader a thousand ways to read your book. A million places to stop and puzzle over those lights, out there. Tickle them, taunt them, trigger them. Dazzle them until they lose track of real time and real space, until all they can think of is the will-o-the-wisp. Because, as James Joyce once said, “…that’s the only way of ensuring one’s immortality.”