Monday, June 15, 2009
Reward Them with Anticipatory Events
Missy here. I'm giving away a copy of His Forever Love today! More info after the post...
I love learning about writing. In fact, I’m probably a workshop/how-to book/online class junkie. And recently, I’ve been thinking about something one of our blog readers, Vince, said about his Rewards for Reading Index.
Vince talks about how readers like to be rewarded, or “paid”, often. I know Vince has some specific items he’s come up with. He and I talked in an email specifically about having anticipatory events (AE’s) in the story along with quick resolutions so that there is payoff throughout the book, not just at the end. It’s something that can help raise the stakes as well.
So that got me to thinking about building anticipatory events into my story.
First Kiss. The first thing I think of is the first kiss between the hero and heroine. How can we make the reader anticipate that? Maybe a near kiss? Or interrupted kiss? Or maybe a remembered kiss from the past? And then finally, the payoff! That first kiss of the story.
Forced to Work Together. Another AE (anticipatory event) might be when the hero and heroine are forced to work on something together. Will they be able to do it? Will they fail? Will they succeed? Will they fall for each other while doing so? (That would be the payoff.)
Confronted with a Fear. Another AE may be created by gradually showing the hero (or heroine) very afraid of something, and then all of a sudden, he has to face it. In the past, I tried to keep some things secret from the reader, thinking she would like a surprise. But I learned (from reading) that it probably works better to let the reader know, and then hint at what’s to come so the reader dreads it! :) Of course, something bad happening might not sound like a good thing at first. But I think it gives the character a chance to grow and prove what he’s made of. And it may offer a time for the hero and heroine to bond or offer a chance for one to respect the other. (That respect is necessary for falling in love, I think!) The bonding or building of respect is the payoff.
Small Victories. Vince mentioned to me that small victories along the way are good because the reader will have an interest in the outcome. I think small victories along the way can build anticipation, because each time there’s a romantic victory, then the hero and heroine are closer to falling in love. And on the flip side, the stakes have been raised because they now have more to lose. Whenever I think of this, I remember in Her Unlikely Family where I have my heroine striving to help the hero and his niece bond so they can go home together and live happily ever after. But as she gets closer and closer to reaching her goal (small victories that build on each other), she realizes that her success will send the two people she loves away from her. She now has more to lose. I have the same thing in His Forever Love. As my hero works to get his grandmother’s house packed and ready to sell, so he can move her to Boston to live with him, he overcomes obstacle after obstacle (that the heroine puts in his way!). And then as he finally nears the time to move her, he realizes that he’s going to be leaving the heroine behind. He has more to lose.
And speaking of more to lose… The big black moment (BBM) is a major anticipatory event! Actually, in my opinion, it’s the AE! The reader wonders, what will happen now? How on earth can the characters overcome this?? Will the hero and heroine possibly be able to sacrifice/grow/make the right choices to earn their happy ending? This is where you get to the ultimate payoff. The climax of the story that leads to the resolution.
Okay, those were my thoughts on AE’s. So I checked with Vince to see if he had others. Here’s what he said, and I'm sharing it with his permission:
Vince: I don’t know if you have read “A Passion Denied” but in this long book, Julie Lessman has an AE about every 4 or 5 pages. The book is like an object lesson in AEs.
Here’re some things Julie did:
Is someone with a drinking problem going to fall off the wagon or will they resist the temptation. This can happen more than once.
If husband and wife have a spat, how and when will it end. Almost all the couples in "A Passion Denied" had such spats at some point.
3. Secrets (this is one of the most powerful AEs)
Another favorite is 'will someone keep a secret'. First, someone is told a secret. Then you wonder if they will keep it. Then someone tries to wheedle the secret out of the person and he resists. It looks like he won't reveal the secret and then he does reveal the secret. Now the AE is how will the person hearing the secret react? And if sworn not to tell anyone else, will she tell someone else –especially the concerned party…and if she tells the concerned party, how will that change the dynamics of the plot? Telling and keeping secrets has legs; you can use the technique over and over again -- just like dominoes falling.
Will someone keep a promise when it is very inconvenient to do so and the promise was made to a child? How will the broken promise be taken by the injured party?
Caught in a ‘Lie”Confront a character who may be caught in a lie. The heroine says, “Wait till I find that man?” That’s an AE. Now what happens if the hero learns something that makes him want to confront the heroine? What happens when they meet? You can up the ante by having the confrontation happen in church where they can’t really say what they want to say, but they still say a little, and then they are not able to have it all out after church for some good reasons. So you have a partial confrontation preparing the way for an even bigger one. In fact, the partial confrontation could have made the situation much worse.
How Will He/She Like X?“How Will He Like X?” The heroine cuts her beautiful long hair in order to have a stylish “bob”. What is the hero going to say? Will he hate it?
How will his mother, sister, cat, etc. like me? The important thing about small AEs is to have the resolution come very quickly – faster than the reader expected so the reader is pleased.
The lost item – will the hero or heroine find it? A lost note, letter, or diary. Perhaps a photo she does not want anyone to see.
In “A Passion Denied” the hero would not call the heroine ‘Lizzie” like she wanted to be called. Would he ever stop calling her “Beth” – what she was called as a little girl?
Of course, the big AE in “A Passion Denied” was: will or when will the hero see the heroine as other than the little sister he never had?
JealousyWill the heroine date another man? Will she kiss him? Is her virtue in danger? What will the hero do when he finds out about the date? Did she try to keep the date a secret?
Perhaps, the hero sees an old girlfriend in a restaurant and fears she’ll come over to the table where he is sitting with the heroine. Why does he fear a visit so much? And will she see him? And if she sees him, will she stop over or will she ignore him?
There really is no end to AEs.
End Vince’s comments.
Now back to Missy:
Vince concluded his email saying that Julie’s book, A Passion Denied, was masterfully plotted. Okay, Julie, spill your methods! For some reason, I’m thinking maybe you’re a seat-of-the-pants writer. So maybe good storytelling just comes naturally. :)
Okay, y’all. Tell me some more AE’s! What have you done or seen done that works well?
Missy’s new June release, His Forever Love, is on the shelves now! Missy will give away a copy today in a drawing from among those who comment, so please leave your contact info or email Missy at missytippens [at] aol.com to enter. I'll draw late tonight or tomorrow morning.