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writing

What Was Promised

Arguably, one of the most important things while writing is keeping your promises. Now, what do I mean when I say promises? I am referring to something which the reader anticipates based on the genre or your storytelling. Not keeping promises is one of the reasons why so many story twists fall short. When you fail to keep promises, you fail your readers and you’ll leave them feeling dissatisfied.

So.

How can we, as writers, make and keep promises to our readers? Here are 3 ways we can offer and fulfill.

The Rule of Threes

three monkey statues

One of the way many writers strive to make and keep promises to readers is to point something out to them multiple times before it becomes relevant. I’ve talked about it before, but this is sometimes called the rule of threes. You want to make sure that you’ve mentioned the important things multiple times so that your reader doesn’t feel like it came out of nowhere.

Can you think of an example where a writer presented information multiple times before it became plot relevant? Hasn’t that made the payoff all the better for you as a reader? If it has or hasn’t, go ahead and comment below to explain why it did or didn’t work.

The Power of Genre

library organized by color and topic

In each genre there are patterns and plots which shine through time. If you want to make and keep promises, you can prove to your readers that you’re going to adhere to those norms. If you bait your book as something its not, your reader will feel cheated. However, if you live by these norms, you’ll find yourself with happy readers.

Before you rip me to pieces, may I just add that variation from those standards can be a good thing when it enriches the plot. However, you can stick to genre standards and still come out the side with a perfectly good story. So, take this one with a plate of salt and you’ll be alright.

What was a time that you’ve felt you were deceived by a book? Did you want to keep reading after that, or did you shove that one on your unfinished list? Alternatively, what was a time that you got something better than what you were promised?

Clear Expectations

man in mirror

Do we know what your main character wants? The easiest way to make and keep a promise is to tell us what your character is working toward. Even if the story pulls them away from that goal (as it so frequently does), we, at least, will know what the character will lean toward when choices have to be made. Use your character’s inner narration to make and keep promises on occasion.

Beware of doing this one too much though, or you’ll find yourself telling your reader to death. If you smack the audience too many times with narrative intentions, they’ll form callouses, but if you use it from time to time it can help them stay focused.

Have you ever been the gladder for a character explicitly stating their intentions with inner or outer dialogue? What were times this absolutely didn’t work?

Thanks again for stopping by and I hope that you all have a marvelous Nanowrimo.