Building stories is like building houses. Yes, you need a foundation, walls, and a roof, but holy cow–look at all the variations that are possible AND successful given those basic requirements!
Archive for the ‘The Craft of Writing’ Category
Along every step of the way, readers need to be surprised, not about everything, but about enough of the particularities of the problem, character, actions, reactions, and resolution that it prevents the reader from knowing what WILL happen.
Our job as writers is to create a narrative that evokes this desired experience in the reader. Yes, we have to be passionate about our story. Yes, it’s an art and is complex and sometimes feels a bit mystical. But we can’t let that make us forget the fact that the ultimate purpose of the story is to guide the reader through an experience.
Even in the reaction stage we can include conflict and surprise. Maybe after our team’s setback, they regroup and discuss what they’re going to do now. This is a fine time to allow the varying motives of those on the hero’s team conflict.
We solve all sorts of problems on the first or second try in real life. We keep tension down. But with stories we don’t want to eliminate tension. We want to build it.
Let’s say water starts dripping out of the light fixture right above your kitchen table. Maybe the wiring in the light starts to spark. What do you do?
I’m usually a bit reluctant about using writing prompts that are offered to a group because of the danger of similarity in stories and because a given prompt may or may not interest me personally. The Wikipedia Prompt Trails approach appeals to me because it offers individually-tailored prompts instead, avoiding both problems.
Key Conditions for Suspense:
Part 13 – Make the problem hard to solve
with growing troubles & surprise
The moment you solve all the problems in the story, the story is over because the readers have nothing more to worry about. Troubles allow the story to progress and grow.
I’m surprised quite often how little or ill thought-out the political and economic infrastructure of secondary worlds can be. How the hell do people get food to eat? How do they earn their money? What are their voting rights and what stops people from rising up against their governments?
Remember, the better the opposition, the more tension the reader will feel because a formidable opponent increases the chances in the reader’s mind that the hero will fail.