Readers want something out of a novel because the writer offers something: an escape into a dazzling love affair, a trek into a strange land in search of a dangerous prize or a puzzle solving journey into a seemingly unsolvable crime.
As writers we promise to unveil, to resolve, to unearth and to make understandable the evil deed, the true love, the cause celebre. There can only be disappointment if that promise is broken.
This is a serious commitment – a contract between writer and reader.
Reading is the sole means by which we slip, involuntarily, often helplessly, into another’s skin, another’s voice, another’s soul.
Joyce Carol Oates
As writers, any story we write intrinsically contains a promise – a kind of oath – to deliver the goods. We are convincing the reader to settle in, buckle up and go along for the ride because there will be a payoff in the end.
The ‘ahhhh’ moment waits when the reader sighs and says; “Now that’s a good read, a really satisfying read. Isn’t that why people read? Why we write?
The promise of what’s to come in a story hooks the reader, it holds the reader, and then when it delivers, it satisfies the reader.
To make that promise, we have to know what to promise. It means knowing what the story is about. Not every detail; stories have a life of their own. But knowing where a story is going is like adding an engine to a train; it keeps the train on the track.
And it allows us to keep our promises.
As writers we have to know the resolution, the place where satisfaction happens, we have to feel it. And we have to write toward it even though every plot has (and needs) detours.
The very incident that puts the story in motion and endures numerous consequences will have an answer in the climax. The resolution is where the reader finds satisfaction and it’s easier to build suspense throughout the story while building toward it.
It’s also easier to keep tension in scenes, add McGuffins, write romantic, evil unworldly subplots and then after twists and reversals give the reader the glorious experience of revelation. In the end and only then, the contract is complete.
Whatever the reader wants at the onset, whatever the writer promises to deliver, can be trifled with, appear to die then be resurrected, be taken away, fought for, traded, trampled on, defamed or totally shredded except for one tiny piece that remains whole until the final scene.
As long as the reader holds on, a page-turner is born.
Keep writing and ask yourself “What do I promise the reader and what is the payoff in my story?”
Christina for PenPaperWrite
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