In my last two posts I discussed the fact that readers are not going to hope and fear for a character unless that character raises their sympathy and sense of deservingness. But is that enough? Do readers stick around if the characters are utterly boring?
Posts Tagged ‘John D. Brown’
All of us have an automatic scale of justice inside of us. We can’t turn it off. Nor can we ignore it. It’s very simple. If someone’s bad outweighs their good, then we think they don’t deserve good things. Conversely, if someone’s good outweighs their bad, we think they should be happy.
Sympathy starts when we see someone in trouble. That’s not the only thing that’s required. Some people who are in terrible trouble only evoke pity or even antipathy. So there’s more to this than trouble, but trouble is where sympathy starts. So what kind of trouble are we talking about?
Surprise is one of the vital elements in story making precisely because it makes things unpredictable. It makes hope, fear, worry, and curiosity possible.
It’s one thing to say that something bad is going to happen. It’s quite another to know that kidnappers are going to cut your finger off with a pair of wire cutters. It’s one thing to have someone say something good will happen (Chinese fortune cookie) and quite another to say your uncle just died and left you a million dollars, but you have to fight your three cousins for it.
With this post we begin looking at the key conditions that build reader suspense. Stories are made up of four main ingredients: character, setting, problem, and plot. All of these are important, but problem is the engine that makes suspense go.
Sometimes it feels like there are a thousand things to remember when writing a story. New writers who make lists of these things soon begin to drown in them. But I’ve come to realize that many of these “rules” don’t matter.
Key PROBLEM conditions for reader suspense Part 1 – It’s all about the reader Part 2 – The 3 Problem Types Part 3 – It’s gotta be difficult Part 4 – Uncertainty Key CHARACTER conditions for reader suspense Part 5 – Character troubles Part 6 – Character deservingness Part 7 – Character draws 1-4 Part […]