Being Loyal to a Cheater
Readers are fickle friends who often act like the urchins who draw a mustache on a picture of a pretty model or add horns to a photo of the Pope as they interpret our metaphors literally or try to extrapolate deep meaning from a simple fact. W. H. Auden described the author/reader relationship a bit more eloquently, “In relation to a writer, most readers believe in the Double Standard: they may be unfaithful to him as often as they like, but he must never, never be unfaithful to them.”
How can we hope to gain faithfulness from such an unpredictable audience?
Keep the audience guessing. Rarely, if ever, let the reader guess the right answer. Plan a story with sharp turns your audience never sees coming. Let your readers speculate about what will happen but don’t allow them to be right. During the climax, when your reader is certain he “knows” what is going to happen, end with a twist that both surprises the reader and feels natural. If you can get your audience to say “Wow, I didn’t expect that, but it makes perfect sense” then you will turn their whorish ways into faithfulness.
Tags: Story climax