See, Hear, Do – How to make your fiction writing interactive.


The majority of my career has been spent in people management, and for many years I worked in adult learning and development, studying the best way to engage with an audience.

imagesThere is an adult learning theory that people remember only 20% of what they hear, 40% of what they see, and 80% of what they see, hear and do.

When I write my novels, I want my books to be remembered. I am aiming for the 80% connection.

So how can you add the ‘do’ in to a novel?

Well the other bit of people management knowledge I will throw into this pool of intelligence before we explore this; is that on top of the theory about how much people absorb from the different  see, hear, do styles, people also have a personal psychological leaning to the way they absorb information.

  • untitledSome people are very visual – they absorb information best through pictures or videos, or charts, you’ll spot these people when you hear them say words like, ‘do you see’, ‘I can picture’, ‘imagine’. Most people are visual.
  • Some people are audial though – people who are audial absorb what they hear, and will use words like, ‘I heard’, ‘I listened’, ‘when they spoke’, ‘she said.’
  • Lastly some people are experiential – they absorb information through activity, touch, feelings. They will use words like, ‘it touched me’, ‘I really felt that’, ‘it moved me,’ ‘I grasped it’.

Try listening to the people you know and notice the words they use in conversation and see if you can identify what their natural absorption style is.

As I said above, a large majority of people are visual. But I remember the first time I met someone who was audial.

I was taking part in a training course, rather than leading it, and working with another person. We’d been asked to visualise ourselves in a situation. Easy for me being visual, impossible for this lady who said she couldn’t see any pictures. She literally was unable to create any mental image. The trainer said to her. Try listening to the scenario on a radio in your head then instead. The lady I was working with could do this easily. Being intensely visual I was amazed. It really brought home to me then that people’s minds did work differently.

I met another very audial person recently at a charity event. We were discussing books and she said she couldn’t read them because she just couldn’t engage with a book as she couldn’t visualise the story. I suggested she tried audio books and she was going to give that a go.

I mentioned these two people only so you grasp the concept. But do you ‘see’ (visual word) – I would have said ‘hear’ if I was audial – now, what I am trying to say.

When you write, you need to try to write to engage visual, audial and experiential people, and if you can weave all three into your writing you will broaden the experience for all your readers and capture the interest of some who may not have otherwise liked your work.

So how do you do it?

Think about the words you are using. Intersperse words that are visual with words which are audial or experiential. Don’t just visually describe scenes, creating a picture, but use descriptions of sounds too, so people can hear the noises from a scene in their heads also, and create sensations in your writing. What did something feel like or smell like? What emotion is your character feeling?

imagesCA0477TPYou don’t want to smother your story with too many words, but its surprising just how much ‘see, hear, doing’ you can pull into a story. What you want is for your reader to feel as though they are inside your character in that scene, by taking them through every one of the five senses we have, by doing this you are connecting with their psychological thought without the reader even particularly realising this, they will just feel captured in the story.

Books written like this are the ones you don’t forgot, because you haven’t just read them, or pictured the story in your head, you’ve felt it, experienced it.

Illicit_LoveMy debut novel is due to be published 2nd May 2013 by Sapphire Star Publishing. If you want to find out more go to http://www.janelark.co.uk/  like me on Facebook or follow me on twitter @janelark

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