I’ve struggled a lot while learning the craft of writing. A. LOT. And do you know what the hardest part is (for me, at least)? Catching and holding an audience. And, as I write romantic suspense, that’s kind of a problem.
So, here I am to tell you I’ve finally found the solution.
I have taken a lesson from the movies.
Let me expound. I found this solution for myself by thinking about what I want readers to feel like when they read one of my books. I sat down, I thought, thought, thought (Eh? Anyone? No?), and I said to myself “action movies”. You know the ones. The ones where you sit on the edge of your seat, bite your nails, and worry over whether the characters are going to make it out alive. And then, after I had nailed that down, I promptly sat down to marathon and take notes.
What fun tricks did I learn, you ask? Well, that’s why we have this blog post!
1. Keep the audience in the moment
This may sound like an impossible task, but it is accomplished by utilizing one simple tool. Withholding information. To keep in the audience in the moment you’re at, you only tell them what they need to know to understand the story thus far. Do not — I repeat, DO NOT — burden them with exposition. Keep them in that moment in time. Do not take them back in time. It is okay ON OCCASION to foreshadow something from the future, because we’ll need that in a minute.
Which brings me to point:
2. Foreshadow future events
Let me clarify. Not every single line of narrative has to foreshadow the future. Do not harp on people about how “If I knew now what I knew then” and “I would have chosen differently if…”! Just don’t. Foreshadowing is a tool to keep your readers/watchers guessing. If you keep using it over and over and over in an overt way, they’ll lose interest.
So, use subtle foreshadowing. That gun that has a tendency to jam. That squeaky door when you enter the house. That weird note the heroine gets at the beginning of the story. An “off” line of dialogue. Be creative. Be subtle.
3. Keep them guessing
I recently watched a new release where a character was introduced and we weren’t sure if she was totally evil or semi-okay. She was there to torture, but then she helped the hero escape. Everything she did could be taken for good or evil, and we didn’t know which way she would ultimately lean. You know what this did? It kept me guessing!
If your audience has seen the plotline before and knows that “Oh, hey, this is what’s going to happen next”, they’re a thousand times more likely to put your book down or turn off your movie. You have to keep them up in the air. Don’t solidify anything until at least the third act.
That isn’t to say don’t tell the audience anything. Give them hints, clues, snippets. They’ll read on.
Anyway, those are the major points I’ve learned while studying the action/adventure movie drama for tips. I hope you found them helpful, and I also hope if you have questions you’ll either comment or contact me. Here’s till next time!
What are your thoughts on keeping readers hooked? I’d love to hear!
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