01 Mar Fulfilling the Story Promise
An important lesson for Writers
I read a book recently that left me feeling up in the air. The reason? It didn’t meet my expectations.
These weren’t just any random expectations. These were the expectations given to the reader much earlier in the story.
To explain in more detail I’ll have to give you a certain amount of background to the story, although I won’t give you the title or author. That wouldn’t be fair. So I’ll just say it was a Young Adult Paranormal, set in an imaginary land with its own set of rules and hierarchy.
The story promise wasn’t revealed until well into the book, but it was quite clear when the hero predicted that the empire would fall. And the reason, he said, was due to the corruption of its ruler.
Of course she wanted to execute him for his prediction, especially since he’d revealed it to a large audience of important citizens, but he managed to escape.
Now, wouldn’t any reader expect his prophesy to come true? I certainly did.
But no. While the ending did satisfy a certain requirement in the story and the reader and made the hero appear very self-sacrificing, it did not achieve the demise of the ruler, or the empire. In fact, at the end, the ruler was still alive and the empire still existed and although greatly reduced in numbers, this was not a result of any corruption.
As for the hero – he went off to die of the illness that had decimated the people of the empire.
Sure, he was a real hero for saving those who’d kept him hidden, but it seemed to me the author had lost sight of where she was going with the story. Maybe she took too long to write it. Maybe she changed her mind part-way through. Or maybe she didn’t like the story she started with and decided she could make it more gripping this way.
But when a reader is left dissatisfied at the end, it does nothing to encourage that reader to tackle other books by the same author.
There are so many books out there competing for my readership, so little time for me to spend reading, that I have to be selective. Why would I risk having a less than enjoyable read by tackling another book from this author?
I’m so glad that as a writer, I’ve learned to plot my stories in advance. Not only does it keep me on track throughout the writing process, it also helps me find holes in the story that I can correct long before I get to the writing stage. So, a huge time-saver, and well worth the effort.
Sadly, it appears this author didn’t spend the time plotting.
The result? I simply won’t bother reading any more of her stories.