A story without gripping emotion is like a ship with a chronic leak – no matter how brilliantly designed or aesthetically pleasing, it capsizes rapidly on the watery depths of reader boredom and discontent.
Absence of gripping emotion is a story-stopping iceberg against even a titanic story.
The good news is that there are techniques to easily and effectively infuse your story with the necessary emotional pull to magnetize readers from first page to last.
Over the next few blog posts, I want to share 5 of the most potent of those techniques. The first method I call Amplify the Aftermath.
One of the truisms in life and fiction is that things can always get worse. The most compelling stories constantly up the emotionally ante, ramping up the personal (mental, emotional, physical and spiritual), family, community and universal consequences for the characters. Amplify the aftermath of what does happen or will happen in the near future if the characters don’t achieve their goals. Keep amplifying the aftermath by asking, “What is the worst that can happen?”
In my novel series, Past Lives, a man discovers that he is a reincarnated serial killer (personal, mental, emotional and spiritual stakes). He gets embroiled in a present day murder investigation (personal, family and community stakes). Soon, he realizes that if doesn’t figure out a way to both catch the present day killer and break the bloody cycle of his own destiny, many more people will die (personal, family, community and universal stakes).
How to Amplify the Aftermath
- Intensify the various domains of aftermath: What is the worst that can happen in the character’s personal (emotional, mental, physical and/or spiritual) life? What’s the worst that can happen in their family? Community? World?
- Compelling Structure: The stakes in a story should ramp up as the narrative progresses toward the end of the story. Characters increasingly discover new and frightening consequences for their actions. Think of character actions as pebbles tossed into a pond, the aftermath of which ripples out in widening circles of consequence.
- Aftermath Arc: Closely related to structure, aftermath or the threat of worsening aftermath often heightens over the course of a story. Although the types of aftermath may shape shift, vacillate in energy and compound, the looming threat of goal-crushing aftermath becomes more possible, even seemingly unavoidable, near the end of the story.
As you apply this potent technique to your story, remember that the end game of Amplifying the Aftermath is to compel readers to care more deeply and profoundly about what happens to the character(s) in your story.