Oh, have I got your attention again?
You want to grip your readers, right? Bait that proverbial hook and keep them flipping the pages long into the night. It’s like a compulsion, to string them along until you give them that last twist of the knife. You reveal whodunit.
I’m not a great writer. But I write great dialogue.
I’m not a great writer. But I write interesting characters.
I’m not a great writer. But I tell an intriguing tale.
Now, please understand I just used that line three times in a row for emphasis. I don’t think I’m a bad writer. I actually think I’m quite good when I lay off the booze and pickles, and focus on the great content. But that emphasis is important to show that all of us have really great techniques. And unless you're using that specific muscle, you just won’t get better at it.
I’m not great at the ending. I can’t always stick the landing. My characters always seem to end up dead or dying, and one of them usually finds redemption. That’s not always the solution to a great mystery, or thriller, or anything else. I’ve hooked you, and now I owe you a payoff. And I didn’t deliver. As a writer, that’s not acceptable.
Along the way, I employ some very basic, tried and true techniques. I end most chapters on cliffhangers. I set up a new problem just about every chapter. And then I almost immediately pay off that previous chapter in the first paragraph of the next one. I feel like I owe it to the audience. They’ve invested their time, and now they want to know what happened. Remember the TV show Lost? Remember the finale? That was a stinker. And say sorry if you liked it because those showrunners dropped the ball for sure. Anyway, I digress. The point is, keep your content tight. Crisp. Razor-sharp.
So how are you engaging with your readers? You need to know this at the end of every chapter. Kurt Vonnegut once said,
Just give them something to chase after. The audience will go where you take them, and they will be very happy to be there. But that’s only if you’ve respected their time. And you’ve given them something to chew on. You’ve given them content that swims under the surface and makes them squirm a little bit. Raw human emotion, broken hearts, or a mystery about who killed whom in a small town.
I want to hear your stories. I want to know which part of the journey you struggle with. Let’s talk about it. Engagement, remember?