Tuesday, March 17, 2020

3T Writing Tidbit

This is another in my 25 Ways You're Losing Readers (and what you can do about it) series.

Are you losing readers to confusion?

"Tease your reader."

I'll be frank. I don't get it when writing gurus say that. When I write under the influence of "tease" it comes out vague.

Do you have this problem? Do readers say your story is vague or muddled?

How can they say that? You've been teasing them. Don't readers want to be surprised?

Well, yes. Readers want to be surprised. But they want to understand clearly what the mystery is, first.

Let's take a hypothetical murder mystery then compare it to a popular television show.
Hypothetical Mystery: Murder! Look, there's a bunch of clues. Some of them point vaguely at some suspects. Ooh, let's sneak around getting more clues and more suspects. And it's all dark and moody and then suddenly the killer strikes again, but closer! Isn't that mysterious and exciting? LOL.

One of the most endearing television mystery series was Castle. It featured Nathan Fillion as bestselling author Richard Castle doing research ride-alongs with hard-nosed but beautiful NYPD detective Kate Beckett. There was a formula I gleaned from the show that is quite useful.

Murder! Look, there's a clue. Clue One leads us to Suspect A. We interview Suspect A and show how Clue One means A's the killer. But twist, Suspect A says, I didn't do it, I have an alibi (or no motive or no means). But I happened to overhear Suspect B talk about Clue Two. We interview Suspect B and show how Clue Two means B's the killer. But Suspect B also has an alibi... You get the picture.

This is a simple example of how to have a mystery with surprise revelations but still be perfectly clear.

Published since 2009, over the years I've accumulated various items of writing wisdom. The Third Tuesday Writing Tidbit showcases these items in no particular order. Click here to see all 3T Tidbits. Click here to see all 25 Ways You're Losing Readers.

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