TGIF! Casey here.
This is a continuation of last week’s topic – When in Doubt Throw in a Flying Monkey or Three. I guess I have monkeys on the brain. Or it could be that I’m in the next phase of editing – clean-up!
And it got me thinking of some very excellent writing advice from Orson Scott Card (and I’m paraphrasing here) – never take the reader where they want to go.
At least not until the very end.
As a writer, I like the way that rolls off the tongue. It makes the Author Goddess inside of me delirious with happiness. It means I have the freedom to do what’s necessary to my characters (like send in the flying monkeys).
And readers love it too. Doing the unexpected is what keeps the reader turning the pages. That’s why many chapters end on hooks or with uncertainty. Just when you think the hero or heroine has found happiness, a sudden wrench in the plot sends them into disarray.
Deliciously evil if you ask me. Wonderful too! So how do you accomplish those twists and turns?
1. Be receptive to wild ideas. I’m a plotter, but, I’m always ready to write something crazy (like the flying monkeys). I have also found this comes with practice. The more stories you finish, the more willing your mind becomes.
2. Trust your characters. They can help you find those twists and turns. Again, even plotters can do this by letting them off the leash once in a while.
3. Be mean to your characters. If they are cruising along, getting what they want all the time, that is a huge red flag. Remember, like the readers, they don’t get to go from point A to point B. They have to get lost. A lot!
4. Never end a chapter at a natural break. Think back to television shows - end with a twist. The old advice: don’t end a chapter with a character going to sleep is true. The reader might stop and not pick your book back up again.
5. Follow through. Don’t forget to eventually tie up all loose ends. So, it’s fine to dangle the reader from the edge of a cliff or leave them with an intriguing puzzle, but by the story’s end you’d better tie it in a bow. Either solve the mystery, provide that happily ever after or create suspense for the next book (if there is one) or your reader will walk!
These are just a few ideas. What are your favorite ways to ensure the reader keeps turning those pages?