Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Luring Readers Beyond "The End"

Are you interested in having more than one book published? I know I am. So what causes readers to hunt for the author's name instead of searching for great cover art when looking for the next book to buy? Today's discussion provides one intriguing answer. 

There are certain books, movies, and TV shows that have more than a timeless lure. Why is that?  

For today's post, I reached back into TV time to present this masterful writing skill. The screenwriters of the Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Twilight Zone, and the Outer Limits shows, (aired in the 1960's) used a linear direction to pull viewers into the story....

1.Introduced Characters
2.Presented the main character's problem
3.Revealed problems that prevented main character from solving their problem
4.Solve the problem
5.The end 

Sounds familiar, right? This is the same formula we all use for our stories. The difference happens in the next step. Yes. There is "the next step"

When watching one of the shows I mentioned, I am convinced I know the direction the story is heading. I predict what will happen next without even knowing I am doing this. Based on the character's actions the ending has to be.... Isn't this a nice story.

And although I have paid attention to the plot, even searched for the clue that will be the foundation to the ending, and find it, I am so engaged in the storytelling and so convinced of the ending that I am taken by surprise at the last hurrah. Yep every time.

For example- Hitchcock presented a story about a man who had a bothersome wife. He wanted to get rid of her. He dug a hole in the cellar and told his wife he was making a wine cellar. She mentioned to her friends at a party that she was excited about the Christmas present for her husband. He told the friends he and his wife may not return from their dream holiday trip for months. The husband kills his wife and buries her in the foundation for the wine cellar then takes the trip he and his wife planned.

This story moved in a linear way. We meet hubby. See from his view why he is bothered by his wife. Watch him dig the hole and convince his wife this was for a wine cellar. The party happens and they chat with their friends. He kills her, buries her in the hole, then packs for the trip and leaves. End of story? 

Seems like it.


Even with a stellar script and Oscar performances the audience/readers would NOT be inclined to say, I can't wait to read another. The reader wouldn't be upset or dissatisfied...he or she just wouldn't be overly satisfied or eager to find another story by this author. 

The story has intrigue, mystery, suspense. The main character solves his problem. All the components to a great story.

What is it missing? 

The lure. The last hurrah, the moment when I was so engaged I didn't feel the rug being pulled out from under me and left thinking back through the story...and remembering the next day-- found in every episode of the shows I mentioned.

Shall I spoil this little story for you? Yes, I will. The last hurrah for the miserable husband came at the holiday resort where he sat on the sunny veranda. A knock on the door. He answers and is handed an envelope delivered by messenger. The paper inside was a receipt--for services rendered in making a wine cellar in his home's basement paid for by his wife. The Christmas present.

A lure is that little piece beyond the technical ending intended to grab the reader and say, remember this author's name. Buy another book, right now. Yes, get your coat, go online, you must have another story by this

Does this only apply to mystery/suspense...NO. All it takes is one little line at the end of any genre. Here is an you recall the ending line to Gone With the Wind? Scarlett says it after Rhett leaves. She closes the door and says, "I'll think about that tomorrow." THERE IT IS!!!  The lure.

Consider adding a lure on to the end of your WIP.

To help you think of one, find three lures in stories or movies you already know. The movie Cast Away with Tom Hanks has a wonderful one. Be sure to share in the comment section.

I can't wait to read your comment(s)!

Help others--tweet or FB share this post


Rock climbing, white-water rafting, and hiking top Mary's list of great ways to enjoy a day. Such adventures can be found in her stories as well.

Mary writes young adult mystery/suspense, is honing marketing and writing skills, and loves to pen missionary and tell Bible event stories on her ministry blog, God Loves Kids. She has finaled in several writing contests.

Visit Mary at her websiteblog, and her ministry blog to families: God Loves Kids. Or chat on Facebook or Twitter

All subscribers to Mary's newsletter will receive her new short story an intriguing suspense/mystery. Come, read a good story. To get your free gift, sign up for the newsletter at Mary's website or:  Join the adventure!



Jeanne Takenaka said...

Great post, Mary. I haven't really thought about the lure in my stories. You're giving me much to ponder. :) I'll begin looking for these little lines in the movies and books I consume. :)

Loved this. And that Alfred Hitchcock story? He had a knack for the creepy and unexpected. :)

Mary Vee said...

Thanks, Jeanne.
Haven't you found that when searching for the next book to read, and when given a choice between books, that you're more likely to pick up one from a familiar author who wrote well?

I do, too.

Now the key is to become THAT author. :)

Robin Mason said...

when i wrote Tessa i really didn't know what i was doing besides putting the story on paper—let alone did i know of "lure!" but it's there, subtle, pointing to Clara Bess, and when she came along her story ties back to Tessa. now working on the third (Cissy) and the three stories come together into one. trying to think if i left a lure at the end of Clara Bess, though.... certainly it hinted at more to come (i think)

Mary Vee said...

Awesome. Sometimes we pull things together without realizing it. I love when that happens. :)