By this time you can probably already guess what this post is going to be about. Think about it. It's the thing that got you to click on the link here in the first place.
Did you figure it out?
If you said Curiosity, then you are 100% correct.
Whether it is clicking on a blog post link on Pinterest, or picking up a novel off of the bookstores shelves, Curiosity is what does us in.
That, of course, does't include the progress humanity has made in medicine, science, and pretty much every aspect of life. Just from the little word, why.
And yet (speaking from a readers perspective) so many Novice writers refuse to take advantage of our human need to feed our curiosity. Instead they spoon feed us every little world building detail and character development.
So, this post is my case for leaving readers in the dark, (albeit temporarily) and a few ways you can do it.
I figure I might as well start off with my strongest, and most easily recognizable point, the cliffhanger.
I doubt their is any avid reader that is not familiar with them.
It's a classic ploy to keep us interested in getting our hands on the next book in the series. And let's face it, we all bought the next book in the series. ;)
Knowing that our favorite character is in danger and not being told how they get out of it, or even if they get out of it...Oh, the drama.
As a reader, I often rage at cliffhangers. (Especially if the next book isn't coming out for a while.)
But as a writer, I know that they are a great way to end a book, or even a few scenes or chapters, because they keep the reader on the edge of their seats, wanting more.
Secrets are a great way to keep your reader's curiosity piqued.
Which makes using them a great way to keep those pages turning.
Whether they are secrets we let the reader in on, like a hidden past that is just seconds away from biting the main character in the backside.
Or ones we keep them in the dark about, like a shadowy figure we only let them see briefly after a tragedy.
Secrets thicken the plot and keep the readers guessing about what will happen next.
Okay, you're probably thinking this one is a typo, but I'm actually referring to your character's curiosity and not your reader's.
As I mentioned above, everyone has some amount of curiosity. Even the most stoic and responsible of people find themselves curious at some time or other.
So it makes sense that your characters would get curious as well.
But instead of letting them ask a question and get a quick easy answer, write it out so it takes them awhile and cost them something.
In this way you let your reader experience a brand new curiosity and get the satisfaction of solving the mystery right along with your character.
The entire mystery genre is an example of the effectiveness of this technique.
Bonus points if you can use your character's curiosity to get them into trouble. :)
REVEALING SOMETHING TERRIBLE
"Did you just say reveal?" I hear you ask. "Isn't that the opposite of what you've been saying this whole time?"
Just let me explain. Okay?
Some stories start off by telling you exactly what's going to happen. And it doesn't ruin the story at all.
Because the reveal forces the reader into asking new questions.
Think about the animated Disney movie, Tangled. Flynn, or Eugene, starts off by telling everyone that it is the story of how he dies. Of course the fact that he is talking to us, telling us the story, forces us to ask, "then why are you obviously still alive?". This question carries us into the movie (though it is the lovable characters and fast paced plot that keeps us there).
There are other examples too.
Lemony Snickets the series of unfortunate events starts off by promising us that all of the events in the book will be unfortunate and if you don't like sad stories, don't read on. This just makes us wonder "How unfortunate can a story be?". (The answer is, very. Very unfortunate. Seriously don't read this series if you are easily depressed.)
My point is that having a reveal at the beginning of a book can sometimes work for you and not against you. It just has to be revealed in such a way that it actually leaves the readers further in the dark than they already were.
By now I hope I have convinced you of the importance curiosity plays in writing. Keeping the reader asking questions is the key to getting them to the end of the book and ultimately the end of the series.
The great question "what if" that we writer's ask ourselves isn't the only question that makes a great book. Getting the reader to ask, "what's next?" is just as important.
Well did I convince you? What do you think about the importance of curiosity in a story?
I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments.