Jan. 26th, 2012

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I was accepted into the Odyssey Online class, Narrative Structures in Fantastic Fiction, taught by Bruce Holland Rogers, and our first class was last night.  One concept, in particular, made me sit up and take notice.  It relates to a problem my stories often have, and that is that the reader sees the ending coming almost from the beginning, which makes for a rather flat read.  The lesson was about creating anticipation in the reader--how a reader's interest will be piqued by trying to guess the outcome of the story, i.e., worrying about what will happen.  And here's the explanation on how to do this:

How do I make a reader worry?

1.  The reader must be able to imagine two possible outcomes.
2.  The reader must care which outcome occurs.
3.  The undesirable outcome must look more likely.

#1 is the important thing to me.  I guess I've never considered this, not formally, anyway, and I've found that until I can visualize something, it just floats around my brain as a rather nebulous idea that I can't really grasp.  I've known that I should try to lead the reader astray from the end of the story, so the ending is a surprise, but I haven't really planned it, haven't chosen that second possible outcome and led the reader in that direction so that #3 comes into play, that the reader thinks the other outcome is the most likely one to happen.

Now to see if I can actually put this into practice with the next story I write!

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July 2012

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