Monday, July 8, 2013

Tool #32 Place good coins along the path.

. . . Reward the reader with high points, especially in the middle.

Today, I am featuring another chapter from Roy Peter Clark's book,"Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies For Every Writer," published by Little, Brown and Company.

Think of a gold coin as any bit that rewards the reader.  A good start is its own reward, and crafty writers know enough to put something shiny at the end, a final reward, and invitation for the readers to return to their work.  But what about the territory between beginning and end?  With no gold coins for motivation, the reader may drift out of the forest.  Yet I've never met a writer, even a great one, who was praised for a brilliant middle--which is why the middle receives so little attention. . . 

Roy goes on to give three examples:

A gold coin can appear as a small scene or anecdote: "A big buck antelope squirms under a fence and sprints over the plain, hoofs drumming powerfully.  'Now that's one fine sight,' murmurs a cowboy."

It might appear as a startling fact: "Lightning. . . is much feared by any mounted man caught on the open plain, and many cowboys have been killed by it."

It can appear as a telling quote: "Most of the real cowboys I know," says Mr. Miller, "have been dead for a while."

These three gold coins appeared in a prize-winning story on the dying culture of the cowboy, written by Bill Blundell for the Wall Street Journal, a newspaper that takes the act of rewarding the reader seriously--and sometimes humorously.

And now, put what you have learned to use in Roy's WORKSHOP:

1. Take a draft you are working on and identify the gold coins.  Draw a star next to any story element that shines.  Now study their placement and consider moving them around.

2. Find the geographic middle in some pieces of your writing.  Is there a gold coin in sight?

For more useful Tools from Roy Peter Clark's book:

 You can find a copy here.


  1. Hm. Must go look for gold coins in mine. I never thought of them as rewards, exactly, but that's a nice way to view them. Treats, things I enjoy making, offered for enjoyment... Thought-provoking!

    1. I'm glad you found the post helpful, Diana. . .thanks for stopping by!

  2. Love this idea. Really gets me thinking.

  3. I don't know why I hadn't thought of it this way before because I do love finding those gold coins when I'm reading.


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