writing advice

5 Ways to Ensure Readers Don’t Abandon Your Book

At present’s visitor submit is by H.R. D’Costa, an writer and writing coach specializing in story construction and story stakes.


Book abandonment.

Yep, it’s a factor. The state of affairs seems to be like this:

Readers discover your guide, maybe by shopping the classes on Amazon, perhaps by way of a Bookbub advert. And with so many enticements—

  • steeply discounted worth
  • mouthwateringly beautiful ebook cowl
  • compelling guide description

—they click the buy button. However after the primary chapter, the third chapter, and even the primary half of your ebook, they abandon your novel—never to return again.

Therein lies the fatal flaw of the advertising techniques talked about above. While they’re important for readers to discover your ebook, they will’t get readers to finish your guide. And if readers don’t finish your guide, then all of your savvy advertising plans are for naught.

However, when you create the sort of emotional expertise that readers crave, they gained’t give you the chance to put your ebook down—and also you’re one step closer to igniting word of mouth that may make it easier to effortlessly sell your novel, month after month, yr after yr.

That’s why enhancing your craft is an integral part of your advertising technique (though, at first glance, it won’t appear to be it). However what storytelling parts do you have to give attention to?

I humbly recommend a component which may not even be on your radar: the stakes, or the adverse penalties of failure. With out stakes, your protagonist doesn’t have a cause to carry on pursuing his objective. Readers might query why he perseveres despite the obstacles mounted towards him. As soon as readers question the plot, they’ll disengage out of your story. And as soon as they disengage…nicely, guide abandonment becomes virtually inevitable.

With stakes, nevertheless, the protagonist does have a purpose to continue—and there’s no cause for readers to disengage. Not solely that, stakes put readers underneath rigidity. That’s as a result of they don’t understand how your protagonist goes to avoid these nasty damaging penalties. The only approach to relieve that rigidity is to—look forward to it—end your e-book.

Indeed, once you wield stakes correctly, you’ll create the emotional depth that’ll make your e-book unattainable to put down. The plotting tips right here (adapted from my writing guide Story Stakes) will show you what to do.

As a quick overview, here they are:

  1. If a mess of people will endure if your protagonist fails, concentrate on a couple of of them.
  2. Build a subplot across the stakes.
  3. Have your protagonist put some pores and skin within the recreation.
  4. Bind your protagonist’s failure to the sting of regret.
  5. Take the private stakes out of play last.

Earlier than we dive in, a couple of caveats:

  • This article doesn’t really talk about several types of story stakes. Should you’re in search of something like that, here’s a convenient, printable listing of 11 varieties of story stakes.
  • I tend to use masculine nouns and pronouns (chances are you’ll’ve observed that already). However rest assured, as a feminine, I know females make superb protagonists.
  • Because movies are extra common, I usually use examples from films to illustrate my points. Nevertheless, the rules behind the examples apply equally as properly to novels.
  • The information on this article are appropriate for novels with parts of bodily hazard (i.e. thrillers, mysteries, and so forth.). In different words, the ideas are much less applicable in case you write rom-coms, but you possibly can still save them for future reference!

Okay, with these caveats sorted, let’s get to it.

1. If a mess of people will endure in case your protagonist fails, give attention to a couple of of them.

The fate of a nation. The fate of the world. Objectively speaking, these are high stakes certainly.

Nevertheless, it won’t really feel that method to readers—not at an emotional degree. That’s as a result of these stakes are too vast to grasp. Subjectively, these stakes won’t generate much emotional weight. Consequently, the reader expertise can turn into more of an intellectual train, and your story might not include the emotional intensity you anticipated.

That’s why, if you would like readers to spend money on your novel, you need to draw their consideration to the plight of some people inside the larger group comprising the stakes.

The connection between readers and this subset creates a conduit for reader emotion to move by means of, and thus carry over to the group as an entire. This manner, the stakes stay high, and on the similar time, they feel high.

To accomplish this, be sure that readers get a chance to spend time with the stakes (the subset, to be clear) firstly of your novel. Give readers the chance to get to know and like the stakes—the identical approach you give readers a chance to know and like your protagonist. To create such a chance, think about starting your story with a celebration.

In the film adaptation of Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, the fate of all Middle-earth hangs within the stability. But audiences fear concerning the impact of evil on one area particularly: the Shire. Furthermore, the connection between audiences and the Shire is shaped by depicting preparations for a special birthday celebration.

Likewise, in Braveheart, William Wallace needs to free all of Scotland from the tyranny of King Edward I. However audience funding on this worthy objective emerges, partially, from their connection to Wallace’s personal village—which they get to know via scenes depicting a wedding.

When you’ve created a bond between readers and the stakes, you’re not residence free yet.

In case you don’t take the suitable measures, this bond can slowly wither. Consequently, readers gained’t be as emotionally invested in the climax, whose end result will decide what’ll happen to the stakes.

To stop this, take the time to fortify the reader-stake bond. Periodically remind readers concerning the stakes throughout your novel.

Just to be clear, the identical methods ought to be used even when your protagonist is simply charged with saving one or two individuals (as opposed to a mess). Forge a bond between readers and the stakes, then keep it.

2. Build a subplot across the stakes.

Want to get your novel to the correct length? Subplots are fairly useful for that. You accrue much more advantages if you construct a subplot across the stakes. That’s as a result of doing so also allows you to accomplish the goals mentioned above, specifically:

  • forming a connection between readers and a subset of the stakes
  • bringing the stakes to the forefront of your story in a pure method (i.e. subplots = stake reminders)

To build a stake-based subplot, it is perhaps useful to view it in accordance to Scott Myers’s definition of the small story:

I read loads of scripts, and one recurring concern I find, no matter style, is a scarcity of emotional resonance. There might be all this big stuff happening within the plot, literally in a sci-fi story on the scale of blowing up a whole planet, but if there aren’t factors of connection for a script reader to the story’s characters, the place we truly feel something genuine for them, then the effect may be a lot noise.

That’s why I’ve this writing mantra: Substantial Saga / Small Story. That’s whatever the massive story is, what I name the Plotline, there have to be some intimate subplots and dynamics happening which engender a human connection between the reader and the characters.

To point out you ways you may combine a small story into your personal novel, let’s play around with the plot of Marvel Lady. In it, moviegoers obtained the “substantial saga” of World Struggle I. However they didn’t get the “small story.” Let’s fix that.

In the movie, Diana and Steve rescue a village which, despite their heroic efforts, is finally destroyed. Poignant stuff, to make sure. However now think about how rather more poignant it will be if a subplot have been built round this village.

For instance, the movie might introduce this village to audiences lengthy before Diana and Steve arrive there, and spotlight the makes an attempt of 1 or two villagers to survive amidst the chaos.

As within the actual movie, the result of the conflict would hinge on Diana and Steve’s actions. However in this alternate model, audiences would feel the impact of those actions by means of their connection to the villagers.

Moreover, because audiences have gotten to know the villagers by way of the small story, when Diana and Steve finally arrive on scene, audience joy over the rescue of the village goes to crest greater. On the similar time, audience pain over the village’s final destruction will minimize deeper.

3. Have your protagonist put some skin in the recreation.

It’s a primary fact: By and enormous, readers invest extra in your protagonist than in some other character. So whenever you use this plotting trick and make your stakes private—when your protagonist’s potential failure immediately affects him—your story could have higher emotional depth. It’ll be much more troublesome to put down.

Returning to The Fellowship of the Ring, the Shire is residence to Frodo, one of many central protagonists. Because audiences have invested in him, the potential destruction of the Shire carries more emotional weight than if it have been a spot that wasn’t so close to and pricey to Frodo’s coronary heart.

Nevertheless, “skin in the game” means you often have to transcend a protagonist’s connection to a place and give attention to his connection to an individual. Someone close to him—

  • love interest
  • youngster
  • mentor
  • good friend

—will die (or endure different grave consequences) if the protagonist fails to achieve his objective.

At this second, you could be recoiling from this concept. Certainly, many writers resist it as a result of it occurs too typically. That’s their argument, at the least. However for those who’ve achieved your job nicely—and readers have emotionally invested in your protagonist as well as within the stakes—then readers shall be too engrossed in your novel to examine it to one thing else.

Take into consideration the ending of Ant-Man. I doubt any members of the viewers have been considering, “I can’t believe the hero’s daughter was taken captive by the bad guy.” The identical actual thing happened on the finish of Reside Free or Die Exhausting.

No, I’d wager audience members have been considering, “How in the world is Scott going to save Cassie in time?”

For those who still stay unconvinced, nicely, perhaps you possibly can check out the subsequent plotting trick as an alternative.

four. Bind your protagonist’s failure to the sting of remorse.

Right here’s how this works: Though your protagonist has a dream, he hasn’t been pursuing it. He’s all speak (or thought), no action. Then the inciting incident comes alongside, bringing with it a new objective for the protagonist to pursue, the overall aim driving the primary plot of the story.

Now, the protagonist can’t pursue his dream in any respect. That’s not an choice anymore. As an alternative, he must save the world, save the day—regardless of the general objective could also be. And now, failure carries double which means.

It doesn’t just mean that the day gained’t be saved. It additionally signifies that the protagonist, having misplaced all probability of pursuing his dream, can be consumed by remorse. This, you’ll notice, makes a nasty state of affairs really feel even worse, which is why this trick is so effective at adding one other emotional layer to your story.

To see it in motion, research the movie Collateral. If Max fails to outwit successful man, Max will die, full of regret. Nevertheless, if Max succeeds, he’ll not solely survive the night time; he’ll additionally give you the chance to begin the limo enterprise he has all the time dreamed about.

At first look, the limo angle won’t appear to be it contributes a lot. But give it some thought. This dream, together with the specter of remorse that accompanies it, is rather more relatable than dealing with a psychopathic hit man. In other phrases, it creates one other pathway for audiences to connect to the story, thereby supercharging their experience.

That’s not all. Should you employ stakes of regret in your personal novel, you gained’t just be heightening its emotional depth. You also may encourage your readers to take action and pursue their own goals—earlier than it’s too late.

5. Take the private stakes out of play last.

Every time your story includes common stakes and personal stakes, be careful about whenever you take the stakes out of play, i.e., deliver them to a spot of safety.

  • In case you take the private stakes out of play first (e.g. the protagonist rescues her daughter—after which everyone in her daughter’s summer time camp), your story ending will probably be anticlimactic.
  • For those who take the overall stakes and the private stakes out of play at the similar time (e.g. the protagonist rescues everybody at summer time camp, together with her daughter), your ending gained’t be anticlimactic (not because of this, no less than).

Nevertheless, you’ll be lacking out on a chance to elicit much more emotion out of your readers.

To reap the benefits of this chance, take the overall stakes out of play BEFORE the private stakes (e.g., the protagonist rescues her daughter’s campmates, after which her daughter). Discover, to accomplish this, you’ll in all probability have to provide you with a reputable means to separate the private stakes (on this case, the daughter) from the overall stakes (the other women at summer time camp).

But why hassle?

Keep in mind, readers are emotionally aligned with the story’s protagonist. Consequently, they’re going to have a stronger emotional response once they see the protagonist rescue her daughter than once they see the protagonist rescue the opposite women. By virtue of contrast, the latter half of the climax is going to really feel escalated compared to its initial half. Consequently, the reader expertise—already intense—is going to really feel even more intense.

Confession: This plotting trick isn’t like the others. Whether or not you employ it on the climax or not, readers aren’t doubtless to put down your novel at this point. They’ve come too far to throw in the towel now.

Even so, the tactic continues to be invaluable to apply. With it, you’ll show to readers that you understand how to extend the strain and ship a roller-coaster experience, right up till the last minute. So once they ultimately walk away out of your story—not because they’ve abandoned it, but because they’ve reached THE END, and that’s what they’re supposed to do—they’ll eagerly seek for the other books you’ve written.

A cheerful ending, in additional methods than one!


Notice from Jane: For extra recommendations on how to use story stakes, take a look at Story Stakes by H.R. D’Costa.