Sunday, October 9, 2011
Writer's Workshop: Lesson 2 ~ Make Your Readers Hungry
My daughter was watching cartoons the other day and shrieked her frustration at the television when it went to an ad just as the cartoon was getting really good. She asked me this..."Mommy, why does it always stop when something big is about to happen?" I explained to her that the television station wants her to keep watching even after the boring two minute ads. She asked me why they would do that. She just couldn't understand why her favorite cartoons would leave her hanging, desperate for more. I told her that it made the cartoon more exciting. She seemed satisfied with that answer and sat back down on her Elmo chair, anxiously awaiting her cartoon.
This is something we must all learn as writers. Make your readers turn those pages, begging for more. Leave them hanging with questions at the end of a scene, at the end of every chapter, even at the end of a book if the book is part of a series. Keep your readers guessing. Keep them hungry and they will keep coming back for more. Mystery is a good thing, in every genre. I hate to be spoon fed as a reader so I try so very hard to not underestimate my readers and allow them to think.
Here's an example of my leaving my reader's with something to ponder, taken from Circle City: Lord of the Wolfen.
Zoe woke in the dead of night. There was movement outside her cage and no light. The creatures didn’t need it to see but rarely did they enter at night. She knew they were nocturnal and instructed servants to tend to her mostly during the day. She made sure to pay attention to all their conversations, realizing long ago that it might help her escape one day. She sat up and strained to see, blinking. Nothing. It was pitch black. The hair on her arms stood on end. She could feel many around her and could tell by the clinks on the cold stone floor that they were in wolf form, their nails clicking as they passed. She heard low grunts and groans and knew they were shifting, thankful for the veil the darkness provided. She’d never get used to watching them change. She heard a match strike and knew they were lighting the lamps. Ever so slowly, she opened her eyes, surprised to see females. She had yet to see a female since her capture. And they were smiling at her.
Zoe stood, wrapping the sheet around her, shivering, squinting into the dim night. She watched as one of the females pulled a key from her pocket and unlocked her cage.
“Don’t worry,” the blonde female whispered. “We’re here to bathe you.”
“Bathe me?” Zoe managed to squeak out the question. She could certainly bathe herself but usually a male filled her tub and left her alone. This was most odd.
The female nodded and smiled again. “We must prepare you.”
A red headed female spoke next. She seemed older and in charge. “For the Unleashing.”
Zoe shook her head and cleared her throat. “The what?”
“Our master has chosen you for his haremlik.”
“His haremlik? Who is your master?”
“You will take part in the Unleashing in an hour. We must prepare you.”
“I don’t understand…I don’t understand your words.”
“Our words?” The redhead giggled as she removed the sheet from Zoe and guided her to the tub.
Zoe wracked her brain, trying to think of a way she could tell them that she just didn’t understand their lingo. “Your vocabulary. The terms. I don’t know what they mean.”
“You soon will,” the red head assured her as she helped her out of her night gown and into the tub.
“You won’t tell me?”
Zoe watched the females exchange glances and thought she caught a twinge of pity but she couldn’t be sure.
“We are not permitted to do so but don’t worry. You will be safe.”
“Am I going somewhere?”
The red head looked her in the eye and smiled. Zoe took that as a yes. It was all she could do to not whoop and holler.
“Am I to be freed?”
She searched their faces and saw sadness, pity. Her heart sank as the two females bathed her. Three other females moved around her, carrying clothes, laying out make up, lotions, a hair brush. Where was she going if not home? Why would they take such trouble to bathe, clothe and primp a prisoner? The blonde whispered something Zoe didn’t catch. She listened harder.
“You’re wrong. I think she’ll be the Moonswan,” the red head explained in a rushed whisper.
Zoe peered at them both from beneath lush lashes. She watched the face of the blonde female light up.
“Do you think so?” she asked, dragging a sudsy sponge over Zoe’s arm.
“Yes, I do. Why else would our master choose an enemy? I think he’s in love with her.”
Zoe couldn’t help but comment. “Are you talking about me?”
The red head shook her head. “No. Just our master and his haremlik.”
“What is this haremlik? I’ve never heard the word.”
Again the redhead smiled at her. “I wish I could tell you but don’t worry.”
“So, this is not a bad thing?”
“Oh no! It’s a very good thing. An honor. And you were chosen first.” The redhead leaned over and whispered into Zoe’s ear. “We do this in secret. There are guards outside to alert us of our Lord’s coming, should he find out.”
Zoe’s eyes flashed open wide and she sat up, bubbles drizzling down her full breasts. “Someone has ordered you to prepare me for this haremlik without the king’s consent?”
The blonde hissed. “Yes. Shh!”
“You’ll all be punished. Are you not afraid?”
“The only one to suffer might be our master but we don’t think so,” the blonde explained.
“Why not? What makes him so special? It is a him I presume?”
The females snickered as they each shaved a long leg while Zoe held herself up by gripping the sides of the tub. “Oh yes. It’s a him all right. You’ll soon see. Now, hush. We cannot say another word. We’ve told you too much.”
“Will I ever be free?”
The redhead took her hand and squeezed, looking her straight in the eye. “I would bet my life on it that after tonight, you’ll never wish for your former life.”
Zoe blinked. Never had she felt such fear of the unknown. What was bliss to females able to shift into wolves in mere seconds may not be bliss to her. She closed her eyes and resigned herself to her fate. She was amazed she was still alive. Just the shock of living as a prisoner of wolf people was disturbing enough. Sometimes she wondered if she’d died back in those woods. Wondered if she was a vegetable lying in a hospital bed somewhere with only her delusions to keep her company. When would this nightmare end? But what did it matter? She had died long ago when she’d lost her husband and child.
Zoe groaned as they washed her hair, their long fingers massaging and scrubbing her scalp with care. The warm water rushed over her and her mind drifted to thoughts of Jack. Where was he? He seemed to be the only male who cared at all for her safety. The rest of them treated her like garbage, even kicking at her to wake at meal times. She slept constantly. It was a way to escape if even for a while. She had dreamed of Jacob last night. Even though he died as a baby she was watching him grow up in her dreams. He spoke to her. Told her that he was happy with daddy. They were playing in a park and it had felt so real to her. She smoothed the fine, blond hairs out of his eyes when the wind tossed them about. She held him to her and smelled him. It was all too real. He told her he loved her and soon they’d all be together.
Maybe the females were preparing her for her execution and only trying to decrease her stress level. She had heard the guards discussing her before. She couldn’t be sure because of their hushed tones but she could have sworn they mentioned Axl. She still called him Jack and always would but it was as if the little puppy she saved had also died. She never saw Jack as an animal. There was the one time he had burst into her cage and he was now a full grown man. She knew her punishment was connected to him but why they kept her alive in a cage was a mystery. Why was she still alive and why was she punished for saving Jack? She’d had no choice but to kill his mother. She’d have killed them both. If the Lord of the Wolfen ever spoke to her, she’d ask him. What did she have to lose? She’d lost everything.
The females helped her from the tub and led her to the bed where they rubbed oils upon her skin. They sprinkled crushed lavender, rose hips and gardenia petals over her, making a colorful mosaic on her fresh pink skin. Two females went to work on her make up and hair. Zoe remained silent. She recognized a shimmer of excitement, unspoken electricity shared among the women. It was a good sign. Whatever she was being prepared for had to better than existing inside her cold cage. She’d watch for a way to escape but knew the Wolfen had the caverns locked down tight. Even if she escaped, she was miles from home in the dead of an Alaskan winter.
“She reminds me of Sakti,” said the female brushing her hair.
“Both of them blessed with hair the color of moon glow,” replied the female pressing white powder onto her cheeks and chin.
“That would follow in the tradition would it not?”
Zoe sighed. There was nothing more frustrating than hearing others speak of her and only understanding half of it. And if she asked what they were discussing, she knew they’d tell her very sweetly that she would soon understand but they couldn’t yet explain. Why not? Weren’t they breaking Wolfen law at this very moment? She couldn’t fathom why they all seemed so relaxed about it all. There were guards outside but they seemed to be taking their sweet time. She noticed her hair was being fastened into tiny braids, dressed with crystal beads and feathers. One long white feather tickled her shoulder and she brushed it away. Crushed flowers covered her hands, arms and legs, stuck by the oils. She didn’t think she ever remembered smelling this lovely in all her life. She was almost certain she wasn’t marching to her own death today. The redhead finished painting her toes a shimmering silver and began to braid as well.
Zoe watched as the blonde crushed pomegranates and black berries into a thick oil with her palms. The colors swirled, bright red and black as she mixed them with a tiny brush. “Open your lips,” the female ordered.
Zoe opened her mouth so the female could stain the color onto her pale lips.
“This is an old custom, passed down for generations. Pomegranate for passion. Blackberry for your soul. Olive oil for love.”
Zoe gasped and closed her lips. “Haremlik. Does it come from the word, harem?”
The blonde looked frantically at the redhead who placed a hand on Zoe’s shoulder. “Yes.”
“You want to tell me but you can’t.”
The redhead nodded.
“I’m to be part of a harem? Forced to have sex?”
“Not forced but I assure you, you are his first choice. Prepare yourself.”
“I thought we agreed we shouldn’t tell her,” the blonde hissed.
“I changed my mind. As she said, we’re already breaking Wolfen law. If she’s to be the Moonswan, we should prepare her.”
“In your language, it means wife.”
Zoe stood up, the beads in her hair clinking when she did so. “I’m to marry a wolf man and be part of his harem?”
“That’s only for the Unleashing. Usually the wolfen male chooses a wife from his haremlik. The haremlik disbands after the Chase. Once Feral Consummation takes place. Sometimes.”
Zoe squeezed her eyes shut and shook her head, covering her ears with her hands.
“You shouldn’t have told her!” the blonde said.
“I had to. What do you think she’d have done during the Unleashing and on national television?”
Zoe opened her eyes and stared at the female. “Wh…what did you say?”
The other females eyed one another. Everyone watched the redhead. She had just dropped a bomb in Zoe’s lap.
The redhead pushed her back gently, guiding her back to the bed. “Listen to me. You need to relax. Take deep breaths. There is no way out of this. If you want to live, you’ll go through this without creating a scene.”
“A scene? Are you telling me I just better suck it up? I’m going to be forced to take part in a nationally televised orgy?”
The female cringed. “Well… it sounds so awful when you describe it that way.”
“It sounds awful to me too.”
“This is a good thing.”
“Will it free me?”
“Then I’m confused.”
“Are you serious? You said all of you were going against Wolfen law. I’m the enemy, right?”
“It sort of goes against Wolfen law.”
“What do you mean sort of?”
“Our orders come from next in line.”
“Sort of. Uh..yes, that’s a good way to look at it. The prince, next in line to be king.”
“But Lord of the Wolfen is unaware of all this?”
“Couldn’t he have me killed if this angers him?”
“Certainly. But he won’t.”
“How can you be so sure?”
“He’s made promises, vowed to change the old ways.”
“What old ways?”
“Things like banishment of kin. Besides, Wolfen law dictates that a Wolfen male may choose any female, wolfen or human, for his haremlik.”
“So I’m protected in a way.”
“We hope so.”
Zoe wanted to scream. She was tired of the riddles, the talking in circles, the guessing games.
“How could this possibly be televised? Is there Pay Per View porn now?”
“Would you stop saying that?”
“Yes, my lady. Forgive me.”
The other females gasped. Zoe was a prisoner, not royalty. This female wolf was playing with her mind.
“Get used to it. And close your mouths, girls. We will soon be serving her in her wedding chambers. She will be the Moonswan.”
“What if I don’t want to be his wife?”
“I don’t see you refusing him.”
“Because you love him now.”
Happy Writing and Reading!
(Photos courtesy of Photobucket.com)