5 Weird Ways to Delight Your Readers with Interactivity

want to engage readers_When you hear the word “interactivity,” what pops into your mind? Probably ebooks with linked content or apps with built-in games and personalization features. Your mind probably turns to digital solutions and transmedia storytelling–which are great, but might not be your cup of tea.

But did you know that you can make your writing interactive without adding digital bells and whistles? This post takes a look at five weird and wonderful ways that you can bring interactivity to your writing. Enjoy!

Technique #1: Repetition, Rhyme, and Rhythm

brown bearAs any parent of small children knows, little kids love to listen to the same story over and over and over. Many picture book authors use elements such as rhyme and repetition to connect with their young audience. Little kids love the opportunity to recognize patterns and join in on the “chorus”.

Bill Martin‘s classic children’s book, Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?, provides a great example. The question “Brown bear, Brown Bear, what do you see?” is repeated throughout the story, with modifications for each new animal and each new color. The repetition encourages young readers to join in for each question and answer.

2. Provide an Activity

ActivityAuthors can encourage readers to interact with the story by including activities that complement the text. That’s what Steve (the Dirtmeister) Tomecek does with several  “Try This!” sidebars in his new title Dirtmeister’s Nitty Gritty Planet Earth. The simple experiments demonstrate key concepts in the book. They’re also lots of fun, like the “Layers of Time” experiment–in which readers create a science experiment they can eat!

Author/illustrator Roxie Munro invites younger readers to help delivery vehicles find their way through eleven intricately drawn mazes in her picture book Market Maze. Each illustrated spread also includes hidden objects for readers to find.

3. Talk Directly to the Reader

PigeonBustMo Willems’ classic Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus begins with the bus driver speaking directly to readers.

“Hi! I’m the bus driver. Listen, I’ve got to leave for a little while, so can you watch things for me until I get back? Thanks. Oh, and remember: Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!”.

In the next spread, the pigeon arrives on the scene… and proceeds to try to talk the reader into letting him (of course!) drive the bus.

What better way to delight young readers than to invite them to tell a story character “no!”

B. J. Novak similarly invites reader participation in his hilarious read-aloud, The Book with No Pictures. It begins:

BookWithNoPictures_3D-300x423“You might think a book with no pictures seems boring and serious. Except . . . here’s how books work. Everything written on the page has to be said by the person reading it aloud. Even if the words say . . .


“Even if the words are a preposterous song about eating ants for breakfast, or just a list of astonishingly goofy sounds like BLAGGITY BLAGGITY and GLIBBITY GLOBBITY.”

As the text becomes more and more ridiculous, the author encourages the child–who’s presumably listening to the story–to make sure the adult reader is actually saying all those crazy words!

4. Provide a Puzzle.

WildDiscoveriesFrontCoverKids love to figure things out for themselves, so you can practically guarantee reader engagement by giving them a puzzle to solve. That’s what Heather L. Montgomery does when writing about the wildly striped psychedelic frogfish in her book Wild Discoveries: Wacky New Animals.

Just like you are the only person with your FINGERPRINT pattern, each frogfish has its own set of stripes. If the fish to the left committed a crime… Could you pick it out of this lineup?”

She doesn’t underestimate her readers, either. This is no easy puzzle to solve!

5. Ask Questions.

101questionsAlice Jablonsky’s 101 Questions About Desert Life is written as a list of questions and answers. Its format encourages the reader to page through and find her own question rather than reading the book from start to finish—especially because many of the questions sound like they arose directly from a school classroom!

Heather Montgomery also invites readers to think like a scientist by sharing unanswered questions with them. For example, when she introduces the giant stick insect known as Chan’s Megastick, she asks readers,

Are these facts true for Chan’s megastick? Since ONLY THREE have been found so far, we’ll have to wait to find out!”

Interactivity Encourages Readers to Engage

You can use interactive elements to help illustrate a tricky concept; to spark questions and discussion; or simply invite kids to play in your story world. Whatever type of interactivity you bring to your writing, though, it can help you get–and keep!–your readers’ attention.

So what are you waiting for? Give it a try!

Writing in 2nd-Person POV: Q & A with Authors Anna-Maria Crum and Hilari Bell

This is a follow-up to two previous posts about stories written in second-person point of view (POV). If you want the basics on what second-person POV is or why you might want to try using this writing style, check these out:

Engage Readers: Make Them Part of Your Story
Connect With Readers–Without Breaking the Time Bank


Writing Second-Person POV–“In the Trenches” With Hilari and Anna-Maria!

Today, we’re going to dig a little deeper into how to make second-person POV work–by talking to a pair of authors who are in the midst of writing their own second-person POV project, Hilari Bell and Anna-Maria Crum.

CoGlogoHilari and Anna-Maria are currently going through the submission process with one of the foremost (in my opinion) publisher’s of choose-your-own-adventure stories/games, Choice of Games (COG). They’ve graciously agreed to talk about their experience with this company as well as what it’s been like to work on a project that’s so different in so many ways.

Since these two are so excited about their current project that they finish each others’ sentences, I don’t identify who’s speaking in their replies. They’re definitely well-practiced at working, brainstorming, and creating as a writing team!

How would you describe the writing process for a choose-your-own adventure tale, as compared to your experience writing more traditional first-person or third-person POV narratives?

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Book Review: Transmedia 2.0

Transmedia 2.0 book coverWe live in world where, increasingly, the devices we use to enjoy media no longer define the media type. We switch between books in hard copy and digital formats; watch videos on tablets as well as TVs; access email and social media on our smart phones while standing in line at the grocery store. It’s a word ripe for stories that span across multiple media channels–in other words, a world ripe for transmedia stories.

I’ve been blogging about transmedia storytelling much of this summer: what it is, why it’s effective, and how authors can use transmedia storytelling to reach and engage readers.

Well, if you’re thinking about attempting a transmedia storytelling project of your own, you’ll want to check out Transmedia 2.0: A How-To Guide for the Would-Be Transmedia Storyteller by Nuno Bernando. Bernando, of beActive Media, has been pursuing transmedia storytelling since 2003. This book shares insights from over a decade’s experience creating multiplatform stories, drawing examples from both successful and unsuccessful transmedia ventures.

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Sharing Joy on the Writing Road


One of the things I love about writing is that the writing community is so incredibly generous–both in their willingness to celebrate with others’ successes, and their willingness to share the ups and downs along the way. Patrick Ross, over at The Artist’s Road, is a great example of an author/blogger who has shared his ups and downs, struggles and triumphs, in the years since he publicly committed to an art-committed life more than four years ago.

So it’s with great delight that pass on his recent good news: his memoir, begun September 2010, will be published this fall. From his blog:

The Artist’s Road Memoir will be Published this Fall


So it’s official. I’ve signed with an enterprising independent publisher and my memoir–four years after I first started working on it–will be published this October. So many readers of The Artist’s Road have traveled with me as I’ve chronicled this pursuit. I’ve shared my highs and my lows, and there were a fair number of the latter. But you’ve always supported me, and so this triumph is in part yours.

The original banner of The Artist's Road blog, taken on the road trip on Wyoming's 1-80 West.

The original banner of The Artist’s Road blog, taken on my 2010 cross-country U.S. road trip on Wyoming’s 1-80 West.

I plan to share more details about the publishing plans–and the book itself–in future posts. What I can say for now is that Committed: A Memoir of the Artist’s Road will be available in print as a soft launch from Black Rose Writing on October 16th, 2014, and in print and ebook formats a few weeks later in stores and online retailers such as Amazon.

For now, I think it’s worth looking at those highs and lows, in the hope that it is helpful to someone moving forward on a long-term creative project.

  • September 2010: complete a five-week cross-country U.S. road trip in which I interviewed creatives of all types. I had drifted away from my own creativity, but the artists I encounter inspire me to return to the path of the art-committed life. I give notice to the board of directors of the nonprofit I run, and agree to serve through the end of the calendar year as they recruit a successor.
  • October 2010: launch The Artist’s Road blog in part to share my story, but also to hold me publicly accountable to my new commitment to creativity.

To read more of Patrick’s inspiring journey from idea to publication–and his growth along the way–visit his blog, artistsroad.wordpress.com. And join in the celebration!