Where Your Words Flow, Attention Goes

One of the fundamental truths of writing is: The more page space you spend on something, the more attention your readers will pay to it. 

This technique of attention-targeting is commonly used in fiction,  especially by mystery writers. Suspects who receive extended description (or study by the protagonist) will naturally be foremost in readers' minds; this diverts attention from the real killer, who may simply slide across the page like a shadow. 

In non-fiction writing, this technique is also applicable; we simply need to approach it from a different angle.

Instead of diverting readers' attention away from one event or person and onto another, we can channel energy within a story or discussion to keep our message consistent. 

How does this work?

Well, let's say that you're using a part of your personal story to support an article about recovering from a breakup. Naturally, you're going to want to share the events around your separation to draw readers into the story. However, if most of your story is spent explaining why your ex was a terrible person, or how you did everything you could to keep the marriage together, the reader will infer, based on the amount of page space you've dedicated to your suffering, that you haven't actually recovered from your breakup at all. On the flip side, spending too much page space on the "afterward," or skipping over the events which triggered your personal growth, can leave readers feeling distant from your story because they don't understand its origin. 

Discussions or lessons in non-fiction writing can be treated similarly. Concepts which are central to your piece should be given more page space, explanation, and support than nonessential or tangential concepts.

So, when you're reviewing your written work, take a moment to notice where your own attention and energy are centered, and be sure that they are aligned with what you want your readers to notice, learn, and feel. When you can consistently align your intention with the flow of the words on your page, your message will be received even more powerfully. 



Bryna Rene Haynes is the founder and President of The Heart of Writing. In over a decade as a writer, editor, ghostwriter, designer, and publishing consultant, she has helped hundreds of authors find their authentic voices and create powerful, memorable, successful works. She lives outside of Providence, RI, with her husband and their little Moonbeam, Áine.