What Do YOU Promise?
It is the author’s job to make the reader think that the story will end one way, have the story end a totally different way, and have the reader say the author’s way is better.
I don’t remember where I read this, but I think that this is the best advice ever given to me. It is a challenge–a huge challenge–but when I look back at the books that I have loved, and the books that I haven’t quite loved that much, this is usually the reason why the latter just didn’t match my expectations.
Making the reader think the story will end one way is done through two different means.
Foreshadowing: (v) to show or indicate beforehand; prefigure.
The idea behind foreshadowing is to give the reader a hint that an event might happen before it actually. It doesn’t have to be direct. Actually, I think that it is always better being subtle, but that takes practice. Just know that giving away hints of the ending isn’t always a bad thing to do.
Connect the dots:
If you thought foreshadowing was hard, this is even harder. The goal is that all of your foreshadowings, and all of your fake-outs of foreshadowing, have a reason behind them. Bob might threaten Steve, and this might look really good when Bob is the bad guy, but it turns out Bob is merely protecting his sister, and not actually going to kill him because he’s a sociopath.
So why do you need any of this?
Some of it goes back to the idea of tension in a story. Tension is the idea of having people ask, “What now?” With foreshadowing, you encourage the asking of the questions, while providing very little answers. All of this makes for captivating writing.