Wednesday, April 6, 2011

A to Z Challenge: Energy

So far, I've dealt with some very cut-and-dried if somewhat difficult-to-apply topics. I mean, everyone who has ever tried to write will have at least a passing recognition of what I was referring to. 

But today, I spontaneously (and perhaps unwisely) decided to write about something that I've never seen referred to directly. It's something that I've noticed, but that I'm not sure if I'm the only one that did. 

Have you ever noticed when you read how you're drawn into the story? 

What keeps you there? 

Yes, conflict draws me in because I want to know what will happen to the characters. Sympathy will draw me in for the same reason. 

But my mind isn't going to keep checking up on the character's well-being, is it? 

Yes, I'm dying to know what is going to happen, my heart is beating in my ears, but what is keeping me from simply skipping over to the end to find out? Because all the dialogues and info sort of pales in comparison to the importance of finding out what happened. 

I call that thing that keeps us turning the page and reading word for word two names. The one is flow, the other is energy. I'm not really going to go too deep into the distinction today, because they're so close together in my mind, but let's just say that energy is what keeps us locked into the story while flow is what sustains us (and the energy) to the end. 

People can also call it the mood, I suppose, but it doesn't feel like an accurate description. Mood is and aspect to it, yes, but not the whole. Mood affects the characters... '

Energy affects the reader too. It's about how it makes us feel when we read it. To an extent, it takes control of our thoughts so that we don't want to think about anything other than what is going on right now in the book. That's why it doesn't occur to the reader to skip ahead. 

That only happens if something messes with the flow and by extension the energy. In fact, I think people only skip ahead when the energy is completely severed. 

If the flow is affected in any other way, that's when the reader experiences that hey wait a minute! moment. 

So energy is also responsible for the prolonged suspension of disbelief. 

I've always wondered what made that possible, but now that I wrote it, it makes sense to me. Am I the only one?

Energy must always be there in the story. Well, not in the story. In the background. If the story was my thoughts, energy would be the white noise I need for my thoughts to run. It the story was music, energy would be the base. 

What do you think of my theory?


  1. I like that comparison of energy being the bass if the story is music! That makes a lot of sense to me. It's so hard to define what keeps you reading, but I do think it's important to keep the story moving forward and to avoid doing things that yank the reader out of the story.

  2. What you are calling energy is greater than the sum of its parts which includes dialogue, description, conflict and detail. It's almost like it is something you can read for once you have done your draft, but I think it is hard to plan for! Only by concentrating on the smaller parts can you hope to achieve it.

  3. I like the idea of energy keeping us in the book. It's that something that grabs hold and won't let go. That keeps us thinking about the story and the characters even when we're off doing other things. Very hard to define, but energy works! :)

    Good luck with your revisions, and thanks for stopping by my blog!

  4. Wait a minute. What about soemone who wants to know the ending b/c evertyhing bad is happening to the character. I'm one of those readers.

  5. I agree. I usually call it rhythm but I think it is the same quality. And each book that you write, or read, has a different energy - like we all do. When I'm revising I listen for that energy or rhythm and if it is off, I know I have to fix that part.
    Jan Morrison

  6. Sarah I'm with you there. I hate it when something jerks me out of the story, so I try my best to prevent it in my writing.

    Aine, you're completely right. I think it would be impossible to go looking for the energy without getting all those little things around and in it right. :-)

    Thanks Alison. I will definitely be around your blog more often. ^_^

    The theory still holds, Shelly, because the reader could have screwed with the flow by adding too many bad things at too short intervals... It has to be done in such a way that the reader assimilates with the situation. If you as reader is thinking: "oh come on! When is enough?" the writer messed it up.

    Jan rhythm is a good description although I'm not sure if it encompasses my entire idea of what energy is supposed to be. Rhythm is definitely and important aspect to it though. I also feel for it when I'm rereading my work. :-)

  7. I totally agree with you Misha. It isn't just the story that makes a good tale; The Author’s ability to share their enthusiasm and excitement with the reader is what keeps us absorbed and makes the greatest stories.

  8. Your theory kind of reminds me of Bill Johnson's book 'A Story is a Promise' - you should check it out. This post was great, you have a really cool understanding of how a story should flow and what keeps the reader reading. :)

  9. I'm with you there on energy. That is what I call a "heartbeat", when the writing and the story feels like it came from the imagination, the subconscious, a sort of dream-trance world. Great post.

  10. I think there is an energy that propels me, as a reader, onward through a story to its end. I mostly read at night before I go to sleep, when I put a book down and I continue the story in my head, that's energy!

  11. Hmmm....really neat concept. Kinda of like Feng Shui for a story, isn't it? But, I like the idea. Energy is an important component to just about everything. So, why not storytelling?

    Great post!

  12. Oooo, I like this! What an insightful way of looking at the flow of a story.

  13. Great E post. Yes energy is very important in novels and films/ TV dramas. :O)

  14. Yep, I hear what you're saying. Flow, along with pacing is very important. The writer has to find the best way to spark energey, excitement and conflict within the story in a way that doesn't overwhelm the reader. Most of the time it starts with character, then dialogue, and builds from there.

  15. What a fabulous concept. That's it - energy. It's voice, it's the personality of the writer coming through. If you're in the mood for bubbly writing, find a bubbly writer, miserable writing, miserable writer :-) How to inject that energy, though - there's the crux.

  16. Interesting thought... each story does seem to have it's own energy... although I'd be hard pressed to define what energy is.

  17. That's a very good point, Debs. That ability to pass through our enthusiasm and passion is key.

    Thanks Alexis, I will definitely take a look at that book. :-)

    Damyanti you have exactly what I'm talking about! "heartbeat" is an excellent way to describe it. :-D

    Bish, I do that too. But yes, that passion that burns into our thoughts must be energy. :-)

    Haha EC I also thought of Feng Shui. Good analogy. ^_^

    Thanks Laura! I was starting to think at one stage that no one got me today. ;-)

    Madeleine, it's true. I didn't even think about tv dramas and movies, but it must be of application there. :-)

    Thanks Lauracea! I agree that the injection of the energy is the thing to figure out... I'm not quite sold on if that is even possible. :-)

    Austin, it is very tricky. It's sort of that thing that we know is there, but can't prove and can't explain. :-)

  18. I wouldn't disagree with you. For me, the story has to flow well and I have to be so wrapped up in what's happening that I can't put the book down and when I do, I can't wait to get back to it.

  19. You are right! I've never noticed this referred to either. Energy. Everything has it. Even our writing. Books have to have it. Bravo. Great, thought provoking post. :-)

  20. I think you're right. Energy is so important to a story.

  21. I never actually thought of it like that but this makes a lot of sense! Interesting.

  22. I agree with you. What draws me in usually is a bit of mystery and romance. Well I guess it's a lot of things but good writers know how to grab you and keep you interested. =)

  23. Energy is important in writing, just as it is in all forms of art. The most talented vocalist can perform on a stage, but if there is no energy behind the performance, perfect notes will not save the number.

    When crafting a novel, there are a number of elements that draw in readers, many of which are a matter of personal taste. Of course, energy is what keeps us there, and I think that's pretty much standard.

    Great post!

  24. I like how you worded the description of energy at the end. I never really thought about it quite like this- but now that you mention it. :)

  25. I never thought of energy like this, but I love how you enlightened me on this post. =)

  26. Beautifully written. I got a lot of information from this.

  27. Flow and energy are definitely important to me, too. Without it, the piece just isn't as captivating as it could be! Good post. :)

  28. I think it's a fantastic theory! Really enjoyed your post today!

  29. Pacing and the rhythm of the writing is like captured energy. Without conflict and control there is no energy - the storyline can read quite damp. ;)

  30. I like this thought very much! There can be dialogue, action, description, and a consistent, well thought out plot, but without that special energy that an author gives their work there's not really anything worth sticking around for!

  31. Lovely post. I think you're right about the energy holding the reader to the flow of the story.

  32. I also like it that way, JL. :-)

    Thanks Robyn! :-)

    I'm glad you agree, Clarissa. :-)

    I'm glad to give you something new to think about, Myne. ;-)

    That's true, Tiger. If a writer can't pull in a reader, there's something seriously wrong.

    Thanks Paul. The singing analogy is brilliant. The purest voice can still ruin a song if he/she doesn't the right energy into it. :-)

    Thanks Summer! :-)

    Thanks Roza! :-)

    I'm glad, Jeanne. I was worried the post would come across as convoluted. ^_^

    Thanks Devin. :-)

    Thanks Amy! I'm glad you enjoyed it.

    Captured Energy is a good way to describe pacing and rhythm, Elaine. Thanks. :-)

    Caitlin, I feel like you about it. The most brilliant dialogue or the most surprising twist at the end means nothing if I'm not drawn and kept in the story. :-)

    Thanks Tamara! :-)

  33. I can agree with that. I think it is a type of energy that a book possesses and if that energy connection is broken then yes, the reader can lose interest in the story. I have before! Great post!

  34. I really like your description and I have always noticed those things when I read but I never really knew how to describe them. Thank you for that!



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