We write for readers, and it is important not to forget that. If we don’t work to give readers what they want (the FEELS - in all possible iterations) they will not connect to our work. A scene that may play out exactly as you envision in your mind may not be the right payoff for a reader. It’s easy to miss as you write. Especially when that payoff is part of a sub-plot. You get so caught up in the main arc that when those pieces fall into place, everything surrounding it gets fuzzy. But when not paid off, those moments are the ones that might make your reader throw your book at the wall.
When you develop a plot (or sub-plot) you are making a promise to the reader: This will go somewhere, you will get a payoff for sticking around. And you HAVE to keep that promise. No if’s and’s or but’s.
I’ve recently finished working through Cassia’s novel that must not (yet) be named, and it has shown so much improvement. I’m proud on her behalf for the quality she has added. That said, I might have swapped from professional-dev-editor to friend-reading-the-book and left a comment with some expletives in it when the sub-plot came to a head only to linger on the edge without pushing over.
Her character was going to make a deathbed decoration... did make a deathbed declaration... but we didn’t get to know what he said! Total book-throw moment for me, and thank goodness Cass is a good sport, because my comment that followed was not exactly friendly. ( Her reply: “I love that you got so worked up… I like your unfiltered sentiment”, so all is not lost, she’s not running and hiding from me today.)
I kept reading, and those words of his kept getting teased, but never delivered. Finally she saw the comment and replied... “don’t you just want to imagine them?” As a writer to a writer, that might make sense. Often, what we make up in our head is better than what we can put into words. But—huge BUT—our readers are not writers. They need us to put what we want them to know on the page. And they deserve it.
I went on and marked places where she could use this no-show technique to build tension and purposefully irritate readers just enough so that when we get a final reveal of the words (the pinnacle of this sub-plot), it’s a huge moment.
I finally got those words pulled out of Cassia and they are everything I’d hoped for. I am so excited to see how this book continues to be reshaped into something amazing.