Charlene Bell Dietz

Engagement Required:

Young children often want the same book read aloud again and again or will latch on and study one book over and over, excluding all others. When this happens many parents worry about their child’s development. Developmental specialist say children engage in rereading because they have unasked questions and search for deeper meaning. As adults, we also search for answers when engaged in reading.

Imagination and Deeper Meaning:

 My six-year-old granddaughter came to spend the night with me. She often does this but with more prior notice and preparation because we live sixty-miles away. Her daddy dropped her off with hugs, kisses, and her overnight bag.  

This vibrant, happy child emanated despondency. No, she didn’t want a snack. No, she didn’t want to go see the beehive. No, she didn’t want to play a game.

We sat on the porch swing in silence. Finally, I pulled her close and asked if she wanted to talk.

“Grammy, do you think the police will arrest my mommy and daddy?”

Puzzled, I asked why she thought this.

Tears flooded her eyes. She whispered, “I couldn’t hear much. They’re up high.”

“Up high? Like upstairs?”

“I’m not big.”

Her father is quite tall. I got it. “What did you hear?”

“Tonight they plan to escape.”

Comparable to reading, when unanswered questions let minds play with scenery, characters, and plots automatic engagement happens, and no written words can demonstrate the height of engagement better than a child’s imagination gone wild.

All ended well when I told my granddaughter her father and mother with a few friends had decided to check out the Jumanji Escape Room experience if they could find babysitters.

Excellent Writing—Mundane Stories:

I’m a compulsive reader, and I’ve judged hundreds of books for writing contests, subconsciously flinging each book into one of five categories: 1. Waste of paper, 2. Needs help, 3. Almost there, 4. Excellent, and 5. Good grief, not again. 

Good-grief (humdrum) books seem to be written by excellent writers who have well-constructed sentences, clever plot ideas, great vocabulary, and strong verbs. However, to the authors’ detriment they write with complete clarity and say exactly what they mean. These well-spelled-out novels seem similar to college text books in that they leave no room for emotional interaction. With no question left unanswered the author has shut the reader out of the story. These stories create minimal concern, empathy, or suspense, leaving no motivation to turn pages or stay up all night.

A detailed description of a school, hospital, or library replicates what readers already know. This ordinary setting leaves the reader’s mind no room to participate. What if the library has a chained-off staircase? What if it leads to a turret where a shadow moves past a window? Now the reader has been invited into play. A reader’s imagination can create a dimension unmatched by even the best author’s written words.  


“I love you.”

“I love you, too.”


“I love you.”

“You’re important to me, too.”

When a writer uses on-the-nose dialogue rather than employing subtext, or explains all minutiae of appearances, scenes, and emotions, they’ve stolen the opportunity for the reader to improve the story with their knowledge. I don’t remember who, but some author said if your character cries, then your reader won’t need to. Brilliant.

Your Emotional Coauthor:

No matter what we write let’s leave room for our readers’ minds to enrich our stories. During revisions, let’s search for sentences, dialogue, and passages where we encourage readers to use the uniqueness of their own experiences. Go ahead. Assign readers to be your emotional coauthors, and let them escape into a page-turning experience.

About Char of inkydancestudios

Writer by nature and for the soul. Educator for life. Artist for love. Passion: All things good and true.
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