Saturday, July 25, 2015

Keeping Promises to Your Readers by DiAnn Mills

Keeping Promises to Your Readers

DiAnn Mills

We writers get carried away in our stories. We’re so focused on building memorable characters and scenes with goals, problems, conflicts, and high stakes that we sometimes forget to keep our promises to readers.

Pro writers keep their promises!

At the end of the book, the reader is left scratching her head. What happened to Susie’s ill grandfather? Did Johnnie ever find the missing puppy? Did Mark and Joanna make up after their huge argument?

I’ve slipped and left my story hanging, just like you have done. Fortunately it was an editor who caught the problem and not a reader who was disappointed when her magic carpet tipped.
This is a no-no!

Writers make promises, and our readers expect them to be addressed no matter how small. They look like this:

I will find out who robbed the bank and make an arrest. Nothing’s made mention of the robbery again.

The 5K will happen in three months. I want to compete in it, so I’ll have to train. No mention of the character ever training.

Someday we’d like to have a child. No mention of this desire again. Is the character’s problem infertility?

When our car is paid for, we might look for a home to purchase. The key word is “might.” How does it pertain to the story? Does it need to be tied up before the last page?

5. Matt had a performance review in one week to get a raise. We never learn if Matt received
a raise.

I devised a method to ensure my story promises were fulfilled. It’s easy and it works. All it takes is a little time.
Pinky promise to the reader
Prepare a spreadsheet with columns that are labeled:

Scene Number
Page Number
POV Character
Promise Made
Scene and Page Number of Promise Kept.

As the writer completes each scene either in the draft stage or editing, she fills in the information. The result is no loose ends. Your story is ready to send readers on a magic carpet ride that doesn’t tip.

DiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers should expect an adventure.

Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists; won two Christy Awards; and been finalists for the RITA, Daphne Du Maurier, Inspirational Readers’ Choice, and Carol award contests. Library Journal presented her with a Best Books 2014: Genre Fiction award in the Christian Fiction category for Firewall.

DiAnn is a founding board member of the American Christian Fiction Writers; the 2015 president of the Romance Writers of America’s Faith, Hope, & Love chapter; a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, and International Thriller Writers. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country. She and her husband live in sunny Houston, Texas.

DiAnn is very active online and would love to connect with readers on any of the social media platforms listed at


Ane Mulligan said...

One author (not CBA) lost my readership because she broke trust with me by refusing to take a stand on the issue she raised in the book. She copped out, took the easy way and I threw the book across the room. I'll never buy her books again. I swore if I ever take a stand, I'll see it through.

Ane Mulligan said...

One more. Sometimes, an author has a series and doesn't resolve one point in the story because it goes on. =o)

DiAnn said...

Ane, I believe when trust is broken among relationships, it may never be restored. A reader has no reason to trust an author who disappointed them.

Richard Mabry said...

DiAnn, you make good points, and your solution will certainly prevent an author from leaving the reader hanging or a promise unfulfilled. I'll have to add this spreadsheet to the timeline and character arcs I already list.
At ACFW a few years back, I heard an editor and an author say that an author's "brand" is a promise to a reader, and when we fail to measure up to what we've done before, we break our promises. Thanks for adding yet another view of what our promise is to readers.