HOW TO WRITE A BOOK DEDICATION
Whether you’ve written a book or you plan to write one in the future, one question will arise: to whom might you dedicate it to? A dedication for a book is not a necessity, but they do a lot to enhance the story. As you consider writing yours, you may be asking: why did I write it and who is this for?
You’re asking those questions– and those are good questions. They help navigate the purpose and the profundity of your book. However, it does not quite capture the magnitude of the book. A better question to ask: does my story start on page one?
Answer: no, it doesn’t. Your story has been in the works for years and years, and your major influences and inspiration for the book you’ve written have had a long impact on you. That’s what the dedication is for. Talk about the people who have made the story what it is. When you think of the story, who do you think of? Who encouraged you, pushed you, or challenged you?
How can you invite people into your story before the book actually starts?
Here are three tips on how to write an effective dedication:
1) Put your heart into it.
In his seminal work, The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis writes a heartfelt dedication to his Goddaughter:
“My Dear Lucy,
I wrote this story for you, but when I began it I had not realized that girls grow quicker than books. As a result you are already too old for fairy tales, and by the time it is printed and bound you will be older still. But someday you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again. You can then take it down from some upper shelf, dust it, and tell me what you think of it. I shall probably be too deaf to hear, and too old to understand a word you say but I shall still be
your affectionate Godfather,”
C.S. Lewis provides a wonderful example: just write a note! Write a note to the person that most inspired you. Tell them of their significance to you and to your work. Here, we see that young Lucy’s imagination encouraged Lewis’ own, and eventually morphed into one of the most landmark fairy tales we now know.
In one paragraph, Lewis has found the heart of his story. The next 208 pages only expound on the wonder that is unfolded here. Lucy, the tiny child who asked her godfather to read her bedtime stories, inspired books that became bedtime stories for generations to come. Lewis’ heart in this note is the heartbeat of the book, and the sentiment extends far beyond his relationship with his goddaughter.
2) Tell a joke.
Address your book to someone or something that happened during its conception. P.G. Wodehouse sets the tone of his short story collection, Heart of a Goof, with these words:
“To my daughter Leonora without whose never-failing sympathy and encouragement this book would have been finished in half the time.”
Right off the bat, Wodehouse’s humor jumps off the page. His dedication is simple yet witty and endearing. A reader can infer a dear relationship with his daughter that is filled with banter, and they can rightly assume that the rest of the book will follow in tone. His wit precedes his short stories, and the tone rings all throughout the pages of his collection.
3) Build the anticipation.
In The Secret Adversary by Agatha Christie, she invites her readers into the story efficiently and daringly with her dedication:
“To all those who lead monotonous lives, in the hope that they may experience at second hand the delights and dangers of adventure.”
In The Secret Adversary, Agatha Christie essentially begins the story in her dedication, calling her audience to a spirit of curiosity and bravery. Immediately, Christie invites her audience into her mystery. Before the story even begins, the audience is intrinsically connected to characters and are acquainted with the author’s voice.
The mystery begins before the characters are even introduced, and by the time we have met them, we couldn’t abandon the story if we tried to. Similarly, Beau Payne brings his readers into his book Payne to Purpose by dedicating it to his sister JR who he calls an “angel to many”. Why is JR an angel? How may we experience the “delights and dangers of adventure”?
How to write a book dedication: Find the story’s heartbeat.
All in all, the book dedication is there to capture the heart of the story. To capture the intrigue, the laughter, the love. Maybe you are telling your story with a witty, tongue-in-cheek attitude. Maybe you are capturing the heartfelt sentiment of a moment– memorializing your life by reflecting on its beauty, Or, maybe your story is one with a lot of twists and turns and perseverance. Whatever it is, capture the feeling.
So remember the person who inspired you, remember the power of your voice, and remember the power of the words you’ve written and the life you’ve lived. Your story matters, and with some intentionality, the story can begin all the way back on the dedication page.