Let’s talk about using sex in a story. How the sensual actions of male and female can be used in order to draw the reader in. Just like I probably drew you in.
But guess what? Happy April Fools Day.
No doubt, I have gained some attention just from those first few lines. Perhaps you saw the post title and figured out where I was going, and perhaps you saw the word sex, and you were brought in like a mosquito to a bug zapper.
While usually I’ve been talking about my own path to writing G’desh, I’m also a sucker for “holidays.” Even ones as tenuous as April Fools. But there is also a lesson to be had in April Fools, in bringing a reader in and then pointing at them and saying, “Gotcha!”
Let’s look at some examples. GRRM is the prime culprit. “When I return we’ll talk about your mother.” “When I return we’ll talk about what you found out about my kids.” “This kid’s an amazing climber.” “This boy is going to avenge his father’s demise.” We are drawn in. We are waiting for that plot point, and then it doesn’t happen. Something amazing happens after these moments.
First, the reader throws the book across the room. They will curse your name, the fact they invested so much into your characters, and swear to never read another story from you for fear of their heart. Next, they will pick it back up and read it with the same eagerness a rabid dog fights over bones with scraps of meat on it. A hook snagged the reader, brought the reader in with promises of the future, and finally the structure of that plot line fell through, harsh and seemingly sudden. Yet all the signs were there, it was brilliantly done, and we ultimately will come back so we can fall in love and be heartbroken again.
What about the demure plot? There is the obvious threat right in front of your face. A large dragon that has laid claim to your mountain. Sure earlier you upset an army of orcs. Perhaps they’ll come to get you. But the dragon is all that matters. Until you’ve killed the dragon, claimed the mountain city, and there’s a force at your gates trying to get through. Admittedly in the books there aren’t that many clues, and in the movie it’s slapping you in the face with a regularity that would make any writer blush a little.
It’s a “just kidding” hook. A beautiful and glorious red herring. Though these can be significantly more difficult to pull off. Too much information and they see it coming. Too little information and it seems to come out of nowhere, which is even worse writing.
The key, though, is to play April Fools on your readers every day. A couple thousand years ago, an immensely predictable story was considered okay. The kids hearing the tales of the gods and heroes already knew the ending, but it was all in the telling. Today it’s all about the story and surprising our readers.
It takes time, but I hope you’re employing this degree of trickery in your own novel. In what way do you like deceiving your readers? What are your thoughts on developing a story, then ending it suddenly through death, a larger force, or some other act that nullifies what everyone was waiting for?