Leave Them Wanting More

 

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People often find it hard to pick a book to read. If they have already read and enjoyed one book in a series, they are often likely to purchase the second. This is especially true if they like the characters and enjoy the writing style of the author.

Authors who write a successful first novel with promises to continue their characters, already have a readership that will come back for more. In fact, if they keep their writing fresh, they are likely to come back again and again.

Publishers love books that promise a sequel. If a book sells well, then it follows to reason that the sequel is going to sell just as well.

So what makes a successful series? 

Characters. One—preferably more—that the reader can root for.

Study the successful ones, such as Stephen King’s The Dark Tower, J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Long of the Rings, J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and see how they do it.

I have enjoyed  A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket—smart and humorous—as well as a number of Amish books in series by Beverly Lewis.

Go to the bookstore and find the section where you want your book to be some day. Research a popular series and ask yourself what makes them good. Then develop your own character you know readers will want to follow.

While you’re writing the first book for your series, keep in mind things you want to save for your second book, and so on.

So, what are the key elements in writing a series that will keep readers interested in reading book after book?

 *Believable, engaging characters.

*A fascinating world or universe. 

*Great writing!

*A plot that has definite direction…not just stretching the story out so you can get another book published.

Reward your audience for sticking with you by giving them new and fresh content—not just more of the same.

And, at the end of the book, or movie, the consumer should feel satisfied and, as my grandfather used to say,

left wanting even more.

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The End?

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I remember going to my first movie with my Uncle Bill—and crying when it was over.

There was no escaping it because “THE END” was written in huge letters on the screen.

The world is full of more sophisticated movie-goers nowadays. No longer are those words written in books or on the silver screen.

So, how does one know the story is over? When the screen goes dark? When there are no more pages to turn?

Well, readers and movie-goers aren’t the only ones that have gotten more sophisticated over the years. Writers have, too.

First of all, we now understand that the ending is a crucial part of the story. It makes that all-important final impression on the consumer.

It provides an emotional sense of closure.

It can:

~provide a summary.

~wrap things up.

~bring the reader full circle.

It should:

~be satisfying.

There is nothing worse, in my estimation, than spending several days reading a book or several hours watching a movie only to end up dissatisfied with the ending.

Who wants to pay good money for a theatre ticket or paperback and walk away feeling gypped, cheated, underestimated, or devalued?

So does that mean that the guy should always get the girl…the fortune hunter must always hit oil…the prodigal should always return?

Yes…and…no.

Given the circumstances of the story, it should end in such a way that we see growth in the main character and it makes sense that it ends the way it does.

For instance, he may not find the pot of gold, but he learns that money doesn’t buy happiness and is content with what he has.

He might not get the girl, but finds someone that is better for him in the long run.

Do we need to see that he settles down in Oklahoma, has a half- dozen kids, and retires to play pickleball the rest of his days???  No. In fact, please don’t nail down every detail. Respect the intelligence of your reader by letting them make some conclusions for themselves.

So, this discussion brings us to question whether this really has to be THE END at all…

Perhaps this is just BOOK ONE in a series.

Maybe this movie will supply enough interesting material for a sequel.

Let’s explore the possibilities…NEXT WEEK.

The Sequel

                   

The Sequel follows after a Scene. (note last week’s post)

It has three parts: Reaction, Dilemma, and Decision.

Scene ends on a Disaster. To my liking, that term is a little strong. However, it does need to end with a cliffhanger…a setback…an emotionally-charged sentence, or paragraph, which entices the reader to turn the page and READ MORE.

However, if we write scene after scene, starting with new goals and new setbacks, our readers are left with their heads swimming and nothing resolved.

We must provide a little down time in order to let our readers recover.

Thus, follows the reaction, the first of the three parts of the SEQUEL:

Reaction: This is the emotional follow-through to a Disaster. Your POV character is shown reacting…hurting… weeping.     2029424474_3ce60b5e4f

Dilemma: This is a situation with no good options. Readers worry and wonder what will happen next while you let your POV character work through the choices and sort things out. Finally, he considers what he feels to be the best option.

Decision: This is the act of making a choice among several options. Your POV character becomes proactive again.

So make your character’s decision one your reader can respect. One that has a chance of working out. With a new goal, now the reader is compelled to turn the page, yet again.

You’ve gone from Scene to Sequel and back to the Goal for a new Scene.

Scene leads naturally to a Sequel, which leads naturally to a new Scene, and so on until you end the cycle by giving your POV character the Ultimate Victory!

THE END

Your Book, One Scene At A Time

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Your book will consist of chapters.

Those chapters will break down into one or more scenes.

Each scene should have a beginning, a middle, and an end. Something significant to the story should happen within each scene to move it forward. When the scene is finished, the reader should feel a sense of completion.

Within each scene, the characters should be actively doing something that makes the story feel as though it is happening in the here and now. (Yes, even if the story is set in the 1800’s, it should feel like it is happening now.)

Once the character reaches his objective, the scene ends.

Each scene should have three parts: Goal, Conflict, and Disaster.

Goal means simply what the POV character wants at the beginning of the scene.

Conflict is the series of obstacles the POV character faces on the way to reach his Goal.

A Disaster is a failure to let the POV character reach his Goal. If you end the scene with a victory, the reader is not compelled to turn the page. Make something happen so that the reader will want to see what happens next.

But a chapter is not just a series of scenes. It is built out of alternating scenes and sequels. 

 

Next week: The Sequel