Critique Writing as a Passenger on an Amusement Ride
Read your writing as a tourist
Disneyland makes me happy — most of the time. Standing in lines bore me. Clamoring through crowds causes frustration. Rollercoasters inflict bodily pain. It is noisy, expensive, hot, and exhausting. However, I love visiting the future in Tomorrowland, experiencing the wildlife on the Jungle Cruise, and exploring the oceans on Nemo’s Submarine Voyage. Each land offers a new and thrilling opportunity. Reading others’ text prompts similar emotions.
Compare reading to riding a fast amusement park ride
My conscious mind enjoys the trip to new worlds and unique experiences while my brain sometimes finishes reading feeling assaulted. Sometimes, the content offers insight and enjoyment while my subconscious critiques the voice, style, grammar, and punctuation. Too often, my inner voice mutilates the experience.
Reading often simulates Disneyland attractions
By reviewing my personal reactions during and after reading, I learn strategies to improve my writing. Learning experiences evolve from reading others’ writings and comparing them to rides in Disneyland. Some offer adventure, inspiration, and spark my imagination. Others leave me drained of energy, sore, and disappointed.
Reflecting on how reading impacts me provides insight into what works and doesn’t work in writing. I realize writing should provide stimulation and not inflict pain. Thus, while I once loved Space Mountain as a teenager, I now bypass that line to ride Mark Twain’s Riverboat. I am pushing 60.
Identify the audience
My parents escorted me to Disneyland the first time when I was nine years old. At the time, my bedroom was painted bright pink and on every counter, in each corner, sat a doll. Thus, It’s A Small World captivated me as I floated through the various countries to the tune of the renowned song.
When I took my daughters, 20 years later, their reactions brought me pleasure as their eyes lit up, and they sang along with the song. Great memories!
As an adult, this adventure annoys me. I notice the dust on the worn costumes, became painfully aware that the movement of the mouths does not perfectly sync with the words, and I want to choke several dolls as the lyrics repeat over and over and over — you get it. Even the fact that each room sings in a different language does not impress me.
Just as my tastes have changed in choosing amusement park rides, my reading choices have evolved. As I have matured, I appreciate different styles and topics. What once captivated my attention now may insult my intellect or simply bore me. Reading has taught me the importance of identifying the readers and focusing on their interests so they will return for another ride in the future.
Communicate the purpose
When a visitor enters the magical world of Disney, they are provided a map that provides a description of each land and a short explanation of what to expect at each attraction. The purpose is clearly communicated.
The brochure describes the theme and gives details about each ride: height requirements, heath stipulations, highlights, as well as, light, sound, speed, and spin expectations; it even forecast wait times. My choices are arranged before the adventure begins. Writing should present readers with the same curtesy.
Topic sentences and transitions serve this purpose. Writers walk a thin line between producing formulaic writing or creating confusion that gets readers lost. However, when an introduction forecasts what to expect or a topic sentence provides focus at the beginning of a paragraph or summarize key ideas at the end, the experience is enhanced. Transitions work as bridges that link words, sentence, and paragraphs, helping the reader cross from point A to point B.
Topic sentences and transitions function as signposts on a map providing directions that are clear and concise. They keep readers engaged in the activities on the page without inflicting pain from excessive changes in direction or sudden starts and stops.
Mange appropriate length of content
There is only so long a person can sit on a rollercoaster with my body tense and head firmly braced against the back of the seat. The Matterhorn Bobsled ride last 4 minutes; when it ends, passengers stand slowly, stretch and walk away wanting more. Writers should follow this example. If they do their job correctly, readers will be excited to return.
Anyone who waits in line for 45 minutes is left unsatisfied when they debark a ride lasting only 45 seconds. The previously mentioned doll horror house lasts 14 minutes — maybe a little long for the lyrics, “It’s a small world after all, it’s a small world after all, it’s a small world after all it’s a long, long song!” Though, for the young passengers the length may be acceptable, all participants reactions must be considered.
The Pirates of the Caribbean ride lasts 15 minutes. The attraction is a classic that has escorted 400 million guest into the world of Jack Sparrow since it began in 1967. Based on those statistics, the creators could teach authors the importance of length if a best seller is the goal.
Optimizing the Disneyland experience requires organization. Research allows visitors to plan for maximum fulfillment. What times are best to visit which rides? When are parades scheduled? Where do I want to be when it is time to eat? How can I be transported from point A to B with the least amount of effort? It’s about interest and priorities.
Readers require the same considerations from writers. The narrative should be organized to optimize the experience. Stream of conscientious typically does not induce a satisfying experience. Sure, surprises can be positive but they also can ruin the situation if they are not planned.
No matter how the day ends, a trip to the Magic Kingdom leaves me exhausted. However, if the staff has done their job, my family is smiling and excited to return. Writers owe readers the same considerations. It is obvious a writer has been successful when a reader is pulled away from a story kicking and screaming like a child leaving Disneyland.