Friday, November 18, 2016

Telling Stories (Part 6 of 10)

We need to build suspense. Many writers don't get this simple principle about building suspense: It means we withhold significant information to build interest. Recently I read a manuscript and the first three paragraphs told me about a waif who was abandoned by her father and emotionally abandoned by her mother.

Paragraph 4 begins, "I was that child."

My response: Who cares? She told us many facts, but she didn't involve us emotionally in her story. Had she started with herself, she might have made us care.

By building tension, we nudge the reader onward—something that makes them want to know more. What happens next?

In the third blog of this series, I used this opening: "We won't be able to celebrate Christmas this year." With tears in his eyes, Dad turned his face away from us.

Let's build on those two sentences and add suspense.

Dad stared at his hands. "I wanted . . . I wanted to make this a special Christmas . . ." He didn't need to say more, because we understood.

What have I done? I've withheld the detail that you want to read. Why weren't there going to be presents? Why the teary eyes? I built on that by showing the broken heart of the father. Then I added one more significant detail: "We understood." No presents at Christmas and we understood?

Good stories 
withhold significant information.

5 comments:

  1. I am very much enjoying this series on telling stories and learning a lot. Thank you for writing it.

    Blessings,

    MaryAnn

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Many, many thanks. I often say none of his receives enough appreciation. AND I enjoyed writing this series. Thanks.

      Delete
    2. You are most welcome, Cec. God bless you for all you have done and continue to do to help writers. You have made a huge impact in my life.

      Blessings,

      MaryAnn

      Delete
  2. Your teaching reflects your passion. I get excited when I see your email because I know it contains something essential for good writing. Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Joan, thank you. I hope that's always true that my teaching reflects my passion. I plan to stop writing before the passion dries up. :)

      Delete

What are your thoughts?