path of the storyteller / blog

how to pop the (dramatic) question


Ah, the suspense! Some questions are big ones, with potentially life-changing outcomes. Waiting for the answer makes our hearts race a little faster than usual!

That rush of energy readers feel when a high-stakes question is finally answered is an essential part of good storytelling. In stories, we call these dramatic questions. There's something the readers are waiting to find out, and the outcome matters a lot. Discovering the outcome is why they keep reading. 

Dramatic questions can be peppered all through a narrative, in small, medium, and extra-large sizes. In a well-structured tale, there’s almost certainly a central dramatic question propelling the whole book, from first page to last. 

And yes, I do mean first page! It’s never too soon to let your reader in on what the book is about. But you have to know what that question is, first.

Do you know what the central dramatic question of your book is? Does your reader?...

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your story, unwrapped


Keeping a present under wraps builds anticipation, for sure! But this kind of secrecy doesn’t work the same way in fiction.

In this week’s livestream, I talk about the common but mistaken impulse to withhold information from the reader as a way of building suspense, why it backfires, and what to do instead. 

Did you ever wonder what Charlie Brown’s quest for a Christmas tree has to do with dramatic structure? Now’s is your chance to find out! Click the image above to watch the video. Questions? Please leave them in the comments. 

My weekly livestream is on Wednesdays at 1 PM Pacific. Come live and ask questions! Or catch the replays here on the blog.

To watch live, you can join the Facebook group right here.

And subscribe to the YouTube channel here.

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