I Want To Tease My Readers The Right Way - The Violet Project Diaries - Entry 12
A day-in-the-life diary series about the development of my writing career as a dark fantasy novelist.
The day is starting strangely. My head is foggy. When the day starts out like this, I choose not to be too hard on myself, well I try to choose that option (perfectionist habits die hard). The rest time needed for an introvert like me is often several hours or days. I don’t know which amount of time I need today, but because I actually want to be a novelist, I’m going to do my best to keep it at an hour to two hours. Part of that hour is watching authortubers or booktubers. I believe they're great feedback for writers. Here are the videos I watched today.
After checking them out, I had the motivation to work on my novel again and I had that “Yes! I’m done with this part!” moment just to realize “Oh, no I’m not.” Writers become content with writing, editing, rewriting, and editing again because that’s how the writer life goes, but it can be discouraging being unsure if the way you ended a part is as suspenseful as you imagined because after you had that “Yes I’m done!” then the “Oh, no I’m not,” you’re not sure you can trust yourself to say, “Okay, I’m really done this time.”
For a good page turner, you have to do more than a cliffhanger. Cliffhangers are our scapegoat for suspense. Avid readers catch on to that real quick. To paraphrase one of my favorite authors on suspense, Donna Tartt, “Suspense is when two people are having a conversation and there’s a bomb counting down to explode under their table.” Oh the many factors to consider… Do the characters talk about the bomb? Are they oblivious? Is one character beating around the bush about the bomb? Does the other character understand the other’s subtext? Is the bomb noticeable? Is the bomb ticking loudly or silently? Is the timer for the bomb a good amount of time or minutes away from going off? Who planted the bomb? Considering the factors needed for a suspenseful page turner is all about context. If it isn’t rich enough, the audience will assume the predictable: the bomb will go off, the characters will die and that means the characters weren’t important in the first place. In other words, lack of context makes the audience apathetic and cliches make them cynical. All interest dies. So, while I was thinking about the resolution for the first part of my novel hoping to make sure I don’t emotionally shutdown my audience, I did my best to keep it like a chess game and maintain the captivation through a series of power plays.
Going back to the YouTubers I shared, all of them discussed their opinions on what intrigues them in the fantasy genre, what calls them to read on, and why they respect the author’s style of storytelling. All three of them had opinions regarding to use of power plays and suspense. Cavanaugh was caught up in the foreshadowing and character dynamics. She observed the power plays from the viewpoint of characterization. Murphy Napier expressed how she loves being immersed in magic systems, whether hard or soft, that have intricate and comprehensive functions and finds the suspense during a magical fight comes with how high the stakes are for the characters. Daniel Greene, who is my newest find, argued that magic systems are best understood and manifest in their purest forms when they are more experimental rather than referenced from prolific fantasy authors, such as Brandon Sanderson. He supported his argument with the fact that when the OG fantasy writers were starting out they were simply doing their own thing from a place of wonder and balanced that out with rules and structure then referred back to his claim that the purity of magic systems are received best when the experimentation of magic through the author’s imagination and desire to bring a sense of wonder is portrayed throughout the world and characters. All three of these YouTubers expressed one thing that was ultimately prioritized amidst their discussion on the use of power and application of suspense: believability.
Being reminded of how believable the elements of a fantasy world must be, my off day became a much more productive than expected. It is so worth it to be thoughtful and patient when I say, “It’s not done yet”, even more so when I get an editor. The extra and thorough work will be worth it if all that I do contributes to the believability of my story. Truly, I want to convince my audience that my world, my characters, my magic system, and everything else in my novel guarantees an immersive experience. I’m not going to build up suspense for the sake of suspense. I’m not going to cut a reader off with a cliffhanger just to tease. As I’ve mentioned before, I read and write for sex and we know how much it sucks to be teased in a way that kills the mood.
Thanks for reading
My horror short "Autonomy Bleeds Black" is available at Kindle, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, Scribd, and other ebook outlets.