On Writing: UNASKED QUESTIONS

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Great post from Reading With a Vengeance. It was the "unasked questions" that made me unable to stomach more than 20 pages of The Hunger Games, so yeah, this is important and can hurt your credibility as a writer and storyteller. And while this post talks specifically about series, this applies to standalones as well.

Original post at
http://readingwithavengeance.tumblr.com/post/92650940584/on-writing-unasked-questions
(linked to in the EXTERNAL LINK).

If a book is to have a sequel, obviously you don’t want to give up all the information in the first installment.  There should always be questions unanswered, mysteries to be solved, plot lines that need continuing.  That is, after all, the point of a series.  I’ve no problem with that.

What I take issue with is questions that are unasked.

“How did her parents know to hide from the supposedly-benevolent government?”

“Why are all these kids being experimented on?”

“Who the hell thought factions would actually work?”

It is fine if the answers to these questions are left for a later book.  As long as the questions are posed, I know that they’ll be addressed later, I know that the author is aware that there is a question there.  If these questions are ignored, what assurance do I have that they’ll be solved later?  How do I know that it’s not going to remain a plot hole?

There are two things to keep in mind in this regard: every reader’s time is limited and perception is reality.  I can’t read every book out there, so I’m not (usually) going to going to spend it on sequels when the first novel feels lacking.  And, since I can’t read your mind and see that you plan to answer all my questions in a brilliant fashion, you have to let me know this is going to happen in the book I’m reading.  If I perceive the book to be full of plot holes, then it doesn’t matter if they’re going to be filled in later, because right now all I’ve got are plot holes and no hope.

Have your characters wonder about things.  Have them ask questions.  Turn your plot holes into mysteries.  Curious characters are your friend.

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