Hi, SEers! You’re with Mae for a look at plotting your WIP. I will say right off the bat, I’m a plantster when it comes to working my way through any WIP. Half-pantser, half plotter. I often don’t know how my book will end until I reach the last quarter and start to knit threads together. As a plantster, I frequently have to go back and reset the stage or foreshadow a twist that materializes in my ending chapters. It can be tedious rewriting, but my system works for me.
Many of you fly by the seat of your pants—true pansters. Others are dyed-in the-wool plotters, outlining your book from start to finish, a roadmap already in place when you type “Chapter One.”
Regardless which approach you take, you understand the need to deliver a good story. When readers pick up a novel, they’re investing time. Relying on the author to take them on an entertaining journey. One that is well-written, engrossing, and delivers a satisfying conclusion.
Have you ever read a book and been disappointed in the way it ends? Some novels are deliberately written to leave a plot thread or two dangling. It’s a writer’s privilege to finish with an open ending—food for thought or as a launching point for a sequel. That doesn’t fly with every reader, but I’m willing to bet the author fulfills the reader’s expectations up to that point.
Now, let’s talk about books that do end with a complete finish but can leave a reader feeling unsatisfied. A few months ago, I read a psychological suspense novel that promised “an absolutely gripping thriller with a twist you won’t see coming.”
I read a ton of psychological and domestic suspense. It’s my favorite genre, and almost every release lately vows to have “a gripping twist” or be “unputdownable.”
When I see a tag like that, I go into the story with certain expectations. Keep in mind, these are also mysteries, so there is usually a murder or two to solve and a killer on the loose. Mystery readers like to puzzle out clues as we’re reading. Part of the fun of reading a mystery is trying to figure out the culprit before the big reveal. When an author sets up clues that has a reader chasing dragon tails or following the wrong trail of bread crumbs—then pulls off a “twist you won’t see coming,” we love it! You can bet I’ll be buying that author again.
Occasionally, however, a promise falls short. As writers, this is where we have to be careful we don’t cheat our reader. Remember the book I mentioned above with the “twist you won’t see coming?” It definitely had a twist. Thoroughly unexpected but for one problem—the author neglected to do the proper set-up. No foreshadowing, no clues that slyly hinted of what was to come. Nothing to make me—as a reader—believe the twist was even possible. Instead, I felt duped.
I’d invested time only to be horribly disappointed in an ending that didn’t ring true. One I had no means of deciphering on my own. Think of it like being handed a puzzle with missing pieces. Then when the big reveal rolls around, the writer produces a piece the reader didn’t know existed. Ta da–NOT!
No matter whether you plot, pants, or plants your book, be sure the story supports the ending. That’s true of your characters, too. No matter your genre, foreshadow, drop breadcrumbs, toss in sly hints. Be as subtle as you like but be sure if you’re going to deliver a twist, you’ve done the proper set-up. You’ll make a fan of your reader—one who will come back for release after release.
Do you have any thoughts on twists or foreshadowing? If you’re a pantser or a plantser, how do you make sure you’ve built a solid foundation for your twist ending? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
I’m going to be offline most of the day, but several of the other authors from Story Empire will be responding to your comments. And I’ll be checking in later this evening, so . . .
Ready, Set, Go!