Monday, May 30, 2016

Giving a Reader Questions

Yet more on creating suspense with questions.

A work of fiction should be a series of interlocking questions.  Think of these questions as links in a chain that pulls the reader through each scene and through the novel.  

The questions within the book should be ongoing.  Before you answer one question the reader has, you should have several more set up so the reader doesn't say "oh, now I understand" and put down the book never to finish it.  

The questions can be action questions-- Will the heroine rescue the baby before it crawls into the well?  Will the hero kiss her now?

The questions can be character questions--  What happened to Mary that makes her so nervous around men?  Why does Jim hate Bill?

The questions can be setting questions-- What is beyond the next bend in the road?  Where is the dragon hiding?  Why does the lab have smoke in it?

The questions can be plot questions-- Will Tom rescue Pam from the burning building?  How will he do it?  What did the robber steal from the safety deposit box that the Mafia wants so much?

The questions can be minor questions which can be answered in a few pages-- Will Pam say yes when Tom asks her out?  

The questions can be major questions that take the whole book to answer-- Who killed Bill and why?  

Writing interlocking questions is a complicated dance between the writer and the reader.  The writer wants to give just enough information to involve the reader and urge her forward in the narrative, but not so much information that the reader becomes bored.

The reader sees the questions and their answers as clues and reading the story is a mystery she wants to solve for herself.  The reader not only wants to know what happens next, she also wants to make guesses at what will happen next and why.    

To see the power of interlocking questions, just consider the Harry Potter series.  These books were not only good individual reads full of interlocking questions, the interlocking questions extended through the series.  People talked about these questions, they puzzled over these questions, and they argued over these questions as each book came out.  

If JK Rowling had explained everything early on, the series would not have been so popular, and the readers would not have been so invested in the characters.  

How do you write interlocking questions?  

One trick is to think of yourself as the reader.  What will the reader want to know at that moment in the narrative?  What questions can you answer and what answers can be held back?  

When you are plotting your story out, you will be thinking about the who, what, when, where, and why of each event.  Decide what information from the Five W's the reader needs immediately, and what information can be seeded through the narrative as questions and answers.  

Every answer you give to an important narrative question should lead to more questions-- Jim couldn't possibly have killed Bill, but why has he confessed to the murder?  Could he be protecting someone else?  Who and why?

An excellent way to see how interlocking questions work is to study how a good author uses them.  

Pick a favorite author who really sucks you into their books and keeps you flipping the pages.  Go to the author's website and find the sample chapter or chapters of one of their books.  Print those pages, get the highlighter out, and mark every narrative question you find.  Notice how the small questions and the larger questions work together.  

Or you can pull out a favorite book from your keeper shelf and read it while paying attention to the interlocking questions.

During all this, remember that the writer and the reader have one important question foremost in their heads as they write and read-- What happens next?

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Monday, May 23, 2016

How to Create Suspense


QUESTION:  How do I create suspense?

The simplest answer is that a suspense scene involves possible danger, either physical or emotional, to the main characters. 

A successful suspense scene must also draw the reader in by using the senses. The words must be vivid, the reader should experience what the character is experiencing and be in the head of the character who has the most to lose in the scene if multiple viewpoints are used. 

Suspense is more complex than that, though, in novel-length stories.

First, the writer must keep offering questions to the reader who keeps reading to find out the answers, and, as the reader finds the answers, the author offers more questions to keep the reader reading.

A question can be a simple what happens next or why is this character doing this.  All the questions and their answers are the clues the reader gets to understand the novel and the characters.

Think of these questions and answers as bread crumbs leading the reader bird through each scene and through the novel. Part of the suspense in each scene comes in finding out the answer to some of the questions the author poses.

Suspense won't work if the reader doesn't care about the person in danger so part of creating suspense is making the reader care about that character. In my romantic suspense, GUARDIAN ANGEL, if my hero had been a jerk instead of a charming, decent man, most readers wouldn't care if he survived to the end of the novel, and they certainly wouldn't think him worthy of Desta, the brave and kind heroine.

The character must also have a worthwhile goal so that the reader wants the character to succeed.

If the main character wants to find the treasure so he can live a lavish lifestyle, the reader may root for him if the search for the treasure is interesting enough, but, if he wants the treasure to ransom his beloved wife and children before they face torture and death, the reader will be as anxious as the character is that he succeed. Each suspenseful scene will be a hurdle or threat to his reaching his final goal, and failure is unthinkable.


If the reader cares for both the character and his goal, your story has even stronger suspense than just an exciting plot would create.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Links of Interest

BRINGING  YOUR MAIN CHARACTER TO HER KNEES WILL KEEP READERS FLIPPING THOSE PAGES:


HOW TO WRITE A CHARACTER WHO DOESN’T SOUND LIKE YOU:


SELF-PUBS, ONLINE CONVERSION TOOLS:


WRITING CHILD CHARACTERS:


GETTING YOUR STORY TO FLOW:


USING THE INTERNET ARCHIVE TO FIGHT COPYRIGHT THEFT:


THE RETIRED/OLDER ALPHA MALE CHARACTER:

CAN DNA REVEAL AGE?


WRITING FOR KINDLE WORLDS:


WAYS NOT TO WRITE A MYSTERY NOVEL:


JANICE HARDY’S RULE OF THREE:


USING TWITTER HEADER IMAGES FOR PROMO:


WHAT IS DEEP POV?


FIVE TYPES OF REDUNDANCY:


ONLINE WORD COUNTING AND LISTING OF NUMBER OF TIMES A WORD IS USED:


CREATING A SUCCESSFUL PROTAGONIST:


101 WRITING TIPS:


THE REVERSED HERO’S JOURNEY:



Monday, May 16, 2016

What to Describe in a Scene

Sometimes, it's hard to decide what to include in a description of a scene.

The trick to deciding is to remember that you're in a character's viewpoint. Ask yourself what is important to that character. 

A cop entering a room where a gunman may be hidden is seeing different things than an interior designer who enters a room a rival has just decorated. The cop doesn't give a damn about the charming shade of blue in the wallpaper, but he'll notice the large pieces of furniture someone could be behind, the amount of light and shade in the room that makes seeing movement tricky, and the possible exits.

At the same time, the character will be aware of the sounds and smells in the room-- the faint smell of gun oil, the Chanel No. 5 of the wealthy woman who owns the home, the tap of the nails as a toy poodle moves across the oak floor, and the slight rustle of something moving behind a curtain. 

With just the right specific touches, the room will come alive for the reader and at the same time you're building tension and giving character details, and you're not stopping the action.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Links of Interest

THE SIX ELEMENTS OF FICTION:


RESISTING THE NEW IDEA WHEN YOU HAVE TO FINISH THE LAST ONE:


THE GOOGLE BOOKS VERSUS AUTHORS GUILD LAWSUIT SUMMARIZED:


PREPARING FOR A MAJOR AUTHOR EMERGENCY, LEGAL ELEMENTS:


BRAINSTORMING YOUR PREMISE:


FIXING THE EPISODIC PLOT:


CREATING A STYLESHEET FOR YOUR MANUSCRIPT:


ELEMENTS OF THE PLOT TWIST:


THE FLOW OF YOUR STORY:


TOP WEBSITES FOR SELF-PUBS:


PROMO FOR iBOOKS:


GETTING TO KNOW YOUR CHARACTERS:


WHAT’S YOUR READER RETENTION PLAN, PART 3:


CHOOSING YOUR NEXT STORY IDEA:


THE IMPACT CHARACTER:


YET MORE ON PREPARING AN AUTHOR WILL AND ESTATE QUESTIONS:


WRITING AN ACTION SCENE:


FIGURING OUT THE BEST WAY TO TELL YOUR STORY:


CREATING EFFECTIVE SETTING DESCRIPTION:


THE QUICK SCHEDULE RELEASE, WILL IT WORK FOR YOUR NOVELS?


KEEPING A GOOD RELATIONSHIP WITH YOUR CRITIQUE PARTNERS:



Monday, May 9, 2016

It's the Romance, Stupid!

In the 1992 campaign against George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton and his advisers realized that the economy was Bush’s weak spot so they decided to focus on that subject. Around Clinton’s headquarters, the sign, “It’s the economy, Stupid!” was posted to remind everyone to stay focused on that issue.

In the same way, a writer needs to hone in on the targeted audience of her book. 

When you are writing and you get a clever idea about the romance heroine’s business problems, you need to decide if that has anything to do with her relationship with the hero. If it doesn’t, out it should go. 

Particularly at the beginning of the novel, that target audience should be kept in mind. The reader wants girl to meet boy as soon as possible so the heroine’s backstory and anything else must be second in importance in those first pages. 

In the same way, the mystery reader wants the murder to happen, the science fiction reader wants some brand new scientific idea or world to startle him, and the horror reader wants his pants scared off of him.


When you are rewriting, always remind yourself that “It’s the romance/mystery/sf/horror, Stupid” and focus your book to that kind of reader.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Links of Interest

WHEN YOU ARE STUCK:


SETTING, HOW POSITIVE AND NEGATIVE PLACES CONTROL YOUR WORLD:


INSTAGRAM FOR WRITERS:


USING SOUND TO SET THE SCENE:


THE HUMAN BRAIN DURING READING:


HARLEQUIN BLAZE AND HISTORICAL LINE TO CLOSE DOWN:


FIXING COMMON DIALOG PROBLEMS:


ON AUTHOR WILLS AND PRINCE:


SCENE 101:


WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW BEFORE YOU SELF-PUB:


WHAT EVERY AUTHOR NEEDS BEFORE THE FIRST BOOK IS PUBLISHED:


FORENSICS, TWIN DNA ISN’T THE SAME:


WHY YOU SHOULD USE A LAWYER FOR YOUR PUBLISHING CONTRACT:


WHY YOUR STORY IS STUCK:


KEEPING YOUR FOCUS ON YOUR STORY:


PREPARING YOUR MS WORD DOCUMENT TO BECOME AN EBOOK:


USING SCRIBNER TO STORE RESEARCH AND NOTES:


DIFFERENT TYPES OF MAGICIANS (MAGIC USERS) FOR FICTION:


NINE THINGS TO DO WITH YOUR BOOK PRESS RELEASE:


GETTING MORE BOOKBUB FOLLOWERS:


TWITTER TRICKS FOR AUTHORS:


RESEARCHING YOUR BOOK TIPS BY LIBRARIANS: