Articles / On Writing

Quick Tips: Readers Aren’t Mind Readers


I have read or edited many books in my time that made me scream for more but not necessarily more of the story line or the characters, but more development of the story itself. Many authors fall into the mindset that their readers will understand exactly what they are thinking or trying to convey but the fact of the matter is readers aren’t mind readers. Somethings are lost in translation. This has everything to do with proper development of your story line and characters.

What can you do if your feedback says you need development? Hopefully, this information is coming from someone you trust like an editor or writing group before you publish and not from negative reviews after the fact. You hear things like, what is the emotions of a certain character and how do they feel in this scene, what happened in another character’s past to make them react in that particular way, or how do the characters respond physically in this chapter? This could be a lesson in show vs. tell or simply that you’re not using either one. You’re lacking detail which allows the reader to paint a clear picture in their head of the fantasy world you created for them. This is not an argument with folks who believe that less is more. Authors who can effectively write with a less-is-more attitude can truly succeed in conveying their picture for readers. If you’re not sure you’re that type of author, here are some tips that may help you develop your story.

Figure out your character’s motivation in the scene.

If your character is a hockey player and he’s playing against a rival team, what do you think his mindset will be? Is his focus winning or is there a distraction he’s dealing with. How can you make him relatable? Your character will have flaws, how will these flaws affect the outcome of the scene?

Answer the five Ws.

Who, What, When, Why, and Where. And don’t forget How. Do you have these elements in your scene. You don’t need to label the five Ws but be aware of what they are when you’re writing. This tool can help you look at your scene more logically and expand the scope and not so much inside your own head.

In the rough draft, over describe all you want.

Detail can be overdone or underdone. It’s better to start with more and then scale down then to be stuck trying to add more detail and feeling lost as an outcome.

Editing is where it’s at.

Find an editor you trust. When they tell you a scene needs work or they ask questions that help spur your creative juices, it’s clear you may need some revision. You don’t have to take every ounce of advice but a healthy dose of criticism can mean your book’s weight in gold.

Put your feet in your reader’s shoes.

Take a step back and ask yourself a few questions. Will my readers understand what I’m trying to show? How can I make it better? Then if you choose, ask a trusted reader in your genre if a certain scene makes sense to them and concurs with the picture you have in your head.

Oftentimes your readers will be one step back, you need to help them to propel forward. Keeping these tips in mind can help you understand your readers a little better. It will also help you effectively show what you envisioned in your story without readers possessing mind reading skills.

If you have any other tips to share, please comment below. We would love to hear from you.

Happy writing!


  1. I’m beta reading for a friend, and I’ve been struggling to convey these exact same thoughts. Excellent guidance. Thank you for sharing.

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