literary fiction, Uncategorized, Writing Podcast

Five Things that Slay Reader Anticipation (Don’t Do These!)

One of the best compliments a reader can pay you, the writer, is to say they started flipping pages. True, you want them to read Every. Damn. Word, but if they don’t, it means you have ratcheted the tension up so high they want to know what happens. NOW.


If you don’t yet hear the lyrics to that song by Carly Simon, then go ahead and let them roll. I’ll wait. (See what I did there?)

Scenes should, indeed, be making you wait, as should the story as a whole. You wanna keep those readers’ eyeballs moving, twitching right along. This isn’t only for writers of thrillers and romances, dammit. Lit Fic authors, I’m talking to you.
Here are some things NOT to do if you want to keep anticipation at an all-time:
1. Don’t use overly florid language. If you’re showing off with your words, chances are your readers are paying attention to your (probably quite clever) song and dance, and not the story. We get it: you’re good with the words. But don’t highjack the story! This is not a guitar solo, to mangle a metaphor.
2. Okay, here it gets tricky and subjective. Some of us like a quickie, but some of us prefer a strip tease. For some of us, it depends on the day. Whichever method you employ, however, seduce us evenly. Don’t switch back and forth between the two unless you’re very good at what you do.
3. Don’t reveal things too soon unless you’re prepared to lock and load again immediately.
4. Be judicious with the exposition. This holds true for so many reasons, but doubly so here. A little will do. Too much of the “why” is like telling someone all of the complex physiological reasons you want to kiss them, when all they want you to do is to kiss them already!
5. Dial back on the interiority in those moments where you’re trying for the reveal. Let your MC experience the kiss, the touch, the grazing of the whatever without the interior monologue so the reader gets to borrow the moment.

man holding white paper
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If you’re not sure if you’re doing it right, ask for feedback. That’s what beta readers are for. Better from a beta than from a reviewer–perish the thought!
Don’t keep us waiting – what do YOU do to build anticipation?

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