Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Delaying the Answers to Our Story’s Questions

melodi2 4.25pmJust a quick post today on a discovery I made with my manuscript. One of the revisions I made to my Quilt or Innocence manuscript ended up making a big difference to the plot.

It involved a scene with a particular suspect who was behaving in a suspicious manner. The questions that arose from the scene were: why was the suspect behaving in this manner? What was she trying to hide?

A couple of chapters later, I had an answer for the reader. I showed the sleuth and the reader exactly why the suspect was behaving in that way.

The revealing moment did, actually, also serve to spur some additional questions about the suspect and the suspect’s motive…so it had originally served a purpose.

But I found when I revised the section and delayed answering the question I’d posed in the story, the tension was increased.

When I finally did reveal the answer to the question, the scene had a more climactic feel to it. Plus, I think it will make the reader scramble a little toward the end…so, if that’s true, then this must mean that…

I’ve used this trick before in my writing, but usually for something either really big or a small subplot that I’d woven into the book. But I liked making this change for a medium-sized plot element…because, in doing so, it actually made the plot point bigger and more important.

The only thing to be careful with, if you’re making this change in the revision process and not as you’re writing your draft, is that you clean up any references to the revealed answer in between the question asked and the problem solved. I was surprised how much I’d mentioned it. Still, it’s a pretty easy change to make.

What kinds of questions are you raising in your story? When are you answering them? Can you delay answering them for a bigger effect?