Wednesday, March 12, 2014

My Guest: Gunnar Angel Lawrence

My Guest this week has chosen to tackle a difficult question that many writers are asking: What do readers want these days? Ladies and Gentlemen, may I present...

Gunnar Angel Lawrence

Television and Movies Have
Changed Your Readers

An article in a law magazine once detailed the problem prosecutors are facing that they dubbed “The CSI Effect”. Jurors are more knowledgeable about crime scene investigative techniques and procedures all thanks to the last decade of being exposed to the hit television series 'C.S.I.'  They expect DNA to snag the bad guy, and prosecutors are having a more difficult time trying cases with circumstantial evidence. Like it or not, today’s entertainment at the movies and on television has changed the culture. It has changed what readers look for in a good read.

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Now, I am from what others would call, ‘The Old School’ when it comes to my selection in books to read. When I was in high school, Bram Stoker’s 'Dracula' was one of my favorites, I read ‘Moby Dick’, ‘The Scarlet Letter’ and the rest of the classics. And I enjoyed them all. The style of writing varied wildly but the story was communicated to a generation of people without the experience of seeing the vivid descriptions in motion the way people can today with television and movies. Our collective attention spans as a whole have been whittled down to twenty and thirty second ‘sound-bites’.

In an interview not too long ago, Steven Spielberg stated that his film 'Jaws' would not be as successful today as it was 39 years ago because the audiences are different. And audiences are different because of producers like him. The audience today would not wait until three-quarters of the movie is over before the ‘monster-reveal’. In the same way that the audiences of
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movies are different today, the readers are different too. They are different because of television and movies.

Think about writing from the perspective of someone watching a movie. In this example, we’ll use the classic, 'Return of the Jedi'. The opening sequence of the film begins with the massive newly constructed Death Star hovering in space. Forty years ago a book describing the scene could wax eloquently on the silence and stillness of the vacuum of space, the colors of the spaceship and serenity of the planet sized weapon of doom. Three pages of excessive detail would paint a picture for the reader to ‘see’.

Today’s reader would tire after the third paragraph of description and want the action. The shuttlecraft bearing the evil Emperor, the landing in the Death Star bay and the opening dialogue between Vader and the Emperor would have to be forefront and compelling. Descriptive is good, but in a generation of people who have grown up watching action movies and television shows, they don’t have the patience that we ‘old-timers’ had for waiting on that picture to be painted for us.

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Many of these readers also don’t want to read chapters consisting of fifty or more pages, they don’t care that the chapter divisions sometimes make sense that way. They are reading during their commute to work, or in between tasks they are doing at home, so they want snippets. They want short manageable sections to read and then stop. For those that love thrillers, look at the pattern of shows like '24' or 'Alias'. There are multiple story lines progressing over the entire episode, each with a set of challenges that mesh together at the end. The frustrating cliff-hanger ending at the conclusion of each episode has the fan screaming but they come back for more every week. And a mini-cliff hanger at the end of these snippets form a chapter that forces the reader into the ‘one-more chapter before bed-time’ mode.

Two, three and sometimes even four POV’s move the overall story along and provide a more suspenseful arc to keep fans watching. When a book has one POV, usually the protagonist, it’s like the novels of the past. When writing for today’s lover of thrillers, at least in my case, I try to write to the pacing of one of these type of thriller shows. There’s a lot going on, in multiple locations with multiple characters and it sort of gels toward the end as they come together to achieve their goal. These days, that is what I like to read. I like to ‘see’ the action unfold before me, whet my appetite for things to come and keep reading.

The readers want to ‘hear’ the infamous ‘24’ ticking time clock in their minds as they finish the last few lines of a chapter, they want to keep reading, because the action doesn’t stop. They don’t care all that much that the protagonist had a lousy relationship with his or her father, although it may add something to the story. It’s all about what is happening, leaving the ‘why’ sometimes altogether neglected.

We can lament all we wish that today’s readers won’t experience the richness of Hemingway or Melville because of this ‘different’ culture that they have grown up in, or we can embrace it and use it to keep our readers entranced.
After years of ghostwriting thrillers, conspiracy novels and mystery books, Gunnar Angel Lawrence has published his first thriller. He is a native Floridian with a love for writing thrillers, mysteries and action stories with fast pacing and a unique twist. He lives in Saint Cloud, Florida with his dogs and is currently single. Most of his time is spent working on the sequel to 'The Perfect Day' which is entitled, 'The Consortium'. The tentative date for release is early 2015.


Thank you, Gunnar, for an interesting and informative article. Looking forward to reading 'THE CONSORTIUM' shortly.

Eric @

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