Re: How to Not Annoy Readers?

posted 1/6/16

Dear Editor…

I have a story idea: Two strangers’ lives tragically collide in a hit & run accident, leaving the DRIVER with haunting visions of the VICTIM. Driver’s visions of Victim become more desperate and her guilt more debilitating, so she decides to return to save Victim—and herself. My question: What do you think of this non-traditional structure: Book 1: Victim’s POV pre-crash; Book 2: Driver’s POV post crash; Book 3: Victim’s POV & resolution of Driver’s story. I worry about leaving Victim’s story in limbo for all of BOOK 2. Readers won’t know if the protagonist they just spent 100 pages with is dead or alive. Is that enthralling, or just plain irritating? I know I could do alternating POV chapters, but I don’t care for that style. Ideas?

Thanks!
Plotting Author

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Dear Plotting Author…

The unknown fate could be cool. Try it! Your awareness of potential irritation means you’ll strive for a story that nails “enthralling.” I have two recommendations for your proposed structure: 1) Keep Victim present in Book 2. Not physically, but through Driver’s story. Perhaps this is a small town and after the crash Driver encounters people that readers met in Book 1. These people are doing business that somehow relates to Victim, none knowing Victim was in an accident. Perhaps Driver discovers a link to Victim, or a hint as to Victim’s identity. The point is to make Book 2 as much about Victim as it is about Driver. Don’t abandon Victim yourself. Keep her with us and even advance her story, building readers’ desire for her rescue beyond basic justice. Then the unknown fate isn’t gimmick but an essential contribution to both characters’ arcs. 2) In Book 1 Victim must have her own story of struggle substantial enough to carry the book to its cliffhanger. Victim’s plot and character arcs in Book 1 should then stoke Driver’s arcs in Book 2, with all arcs merging in Book 3. Like those ideas?

Happy writing!
The Editor

P.S. For more on this topic, read Characterization, Creative Process, General fiction, Plot, Point of View
Comments to "Re: How to Not Annoy Readers?" | Add a Comment
    1. Melissa Shanker wrote (on 01/07/16 at 7:13 am) :

      As always, your feedback is insightful and motivating. Thanks Deborah!

      [Reply]

      The Editor replied (on 01/07/16 at 10:20 am) :

      It’s fun to mull questions like this. I’ll be interested in hearing others’ recommendations re structure or comparative books to check out.

      [Reply]

    2. JEN Garrett wrote (on 01/07/16 at 8:37 am) :

      The Lunar Chronicles does what The Editor is suggesting. In fact Book 4 is an entire backstory of one of the characters (the villain actually) and we are left wondering for an entire book where a whole slew of characters are. But it works because by the time we get to Book 4, we (the readers) are ready to understand a little motive behind the villain’s actions.

      If you haven’t read it, it would be a good mentor text for this type of writerly endeavor.

      [Reply]

      The Editor replied (on 01/07/16 at 10:19 am) :

      Thanks for that recommendation!

      [Reply]

    3. Rita Monette wrote (on 01/07/16 at 1:07 pm) :

      I would like to add that these books should be published close together…as not to annoy the reader by having them wait years for the rest of the story.

      [Reply]

      The Editor replied (on 01/07/16 at 7:23 pm) :

      Good point, Rita. Thanks for adding it.

      [Reply]

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