If you’re new to the novelist’s art, chances are that you’ll give way too much information. You want your readers to understand your characters, so you dump information, to be sure that they do.
Stop doing that.
Writing a novel is teasing the reader.
Here’s how many first novels start out: someone’s lying in bed, and they wake up. They look at the time, remember something or other, and stumble into the bathroom. They have breakfast. Maybe they argue with someone over the toast and coffee. Then they go out to their car… And on, and on.
Think about it. WHO CARES about all this stuff?
No one, that’s who. That’s real life: your readers already live this life. They don’t want to read about it.
If you must have someone waking up at the start of your novel, at least make it interesting:
* He wakes up and he’s a cockroach (Kafka);
* He wakes up and he’s lying beside a dead body (this one has been done to death, pardon the pun, but it still works);
* He wakes up and he has no idea who he is or where he is (ditto the amnesia thing, it’s been done — but you can do it too.)
Keep the reader guessing
The more you can keep your reader guessing, the longer he’ll keep reading.
Go back and read your favorite novelists: they’re masters at the guessing game. They tease the reader, constantly arousing curiosity.
There are endless ways to tease readers.
I’m currently reading Robyn Young’s Brethren Trilogy. She’s brilliant at keeping her readers guessing. Every chapter ends on a cliffhanger. The following chapter switches point of view, so we’re living the life of another character, that chapter ends on a cliffhanger too.
She’s always teasing. She never tells everything she knows about the characters. She drops hints. We’re intrigued. We keep reading. She solves one puzzle for us — but she’s already created yet another for us to wonder about.
If you’re not teasing your reader, start today.
You may just end up writing a good book. 🙂
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