Setting up for reader satisfaction

What could be better than to deeply satisfy the reader of your story? Here are some ideas for how to achieve that.

PICK OUT A FEW GREAT MODELS — you probably know books that you found to be particularly enjoyable to read. Was there something you loved about the way the story concluded? Perhaps you became convinced that there could be no happy ending, and then somehow the author delivered that, and you felt particularly rewarded. It’s not just about happy endings, it might be that the character was so compelling that the reader does not want the book to end. THOSE books — write a list, analyze, figure out what made it so rich for you. For me, To Kill a Mockingbird was such a book, and Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier.

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HAVE A DEEP CHARACTER, WHO CHANGES — readers want to care about a character. They don’t have to like everything that character does or says, but they want to experience the trials and travails of that character. They want to have their heart in their throat as they go with the character into the dark cellar to figure out what is that strange knocking sound. How do you make a character DEEP? by providing a home life, a work life, a love life (or . . . not!), a spiritual life, family, friends, associates with whom that person has problems. Habits, quirks, passions can round out the character. Avoid peopling your story with cardboard cutouts. The characters need to grow and change in response to what happens in the story, and by influencing each other.

SENSE OF PLACE — this is where Maine comes in, or Hawai’i. We have a strong sense of place where natural beauty and small communities are in close proximity. People know each other. We enjoy the same things — the arrival of the robins after a long winter (Maine), the arrival of the trade winds (Hawai’i). The rise of the super moon over the water. Place might be a character in itself, in that it shapes the interactions between the people.

SOMETHING HAPPENS — the worst comment in a book group discussion might have to be “nothing happened”. Make sure something happens in your story! In fact, times TWELVE (the 12 big scenes).

A FEW SURPRISES — yes, you do want the reader to realize, “wow, I didn’t see that coming”, but you need to set up for that so skillfully that it will not seem contrived.

GREATER GOOD — find a way to bring light. That is, reinforce the good in people, let the principled characters win a few, at least sometimes. In our culture, there is available a steady diet of death and destruction, violence, sickness and despair. It’s a dark world, out there. Weave into your fiction aspects of love, hope, faith, changes of mind, forgiveness, all couched in a context of adventure and mystery. Now that’s entertainment that can nurture the soul.

Manna is everywhere!

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Posted in Characters in 3-D, Getting started, Page turner!, Plot, Process, Set the scene

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