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story question II

July 23, 2010

The first and most basic thing you learn as a psychologist is: People are different (from each other). If there’s one thing the test reading process taught me is that readers are different and want different things from a novel. That’s why a 140,000-word novel can still feel rushed to some readers in the end, while others are perfectly content.

You might have read my blog post on story questions.

For some readers, the story question is “Will the two main characters get together?”

But for other readers, the story question is “Will they overcome the obstacles of society and their own fears to not only get together, but to build a solid relationship?”

Some readers love reading about established relationships others prefer the suspense of the first meeting and falling in love.

Take Backwards to Oregon, for example.

At the end of the novel, Luke and Nora had reached Oregon, declared their love for each other, and made love. But their journey together was only just beginning. They were just starting to accept their love for another woman and Luke was only just starting to accept herself. They hadn’t yet built the kind of deep, unshakeable trust they share in Hidden Truths, after 17 years together. They built the foundation for that kind of love on the journey to Oregon, and I was happy to leave the rest up to the readers’ imagination.

For me, the novel ended with them getting together, taking the first of many obstacles on their road to a life together. I provided a glimpse of the future to let readers know there’s a happy end, but left it up to the reader’s imagination how they overcame the other obstacles.

And that’s perfectly fine for the readers who read with the first story question in mind, but not for the readers who read with the second story question.

So I’m learning not to wrap up my novels too soon to provide a satisfying end for all readers.

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