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Question
I am currently working on a book about the special forces with action and Drama. I am still working on the specifics but i want to know how to keep the attention of the reader?. Many thanks, Matthew.

Answer
Matthew:

One of the ideal goals of good fiction is to keep your reader turning pages because he/she just MUST see what happens next.  In other words, you want to keep your reader in a certain amount of suspense.

You create suspense in the beginning of your story, via three things:  Plot Conflict, Character Conflict, and the Stakes.  Plot Conflict focuses on whatever it is your characters are pursuing, which can be anything thatíll make them happier.  Character Conflict focuses on the characters' internal or emotional problems that get in the way of reaching their goals.  And the Stakes have to do with the intensity with which the plot conflict affects the characters.

Of these three, the most important is the Stakes.  When you put something on the line, you increase the suspense.  You often hear the term "stakes" in gambling, and this illustrates the point perfectly: a card game is just a game... until you add the element of winning or losing money to it, at which point it becomes a lot more than just a game.  It becomes more suspenseful.  Because you have something tangible to lose.  

The one thing to keep in mind is that every scene you write makes a promise to the reader.  An action scene promises excitement and a final sense of relief or sadness.  A love scene promises an attempt to bring a couple together (whether it succeeds or not), and reader satisfaction at the outcome.  It doesnít matter what promise is made, so long as the reader accepts it.

So basically, you need to maintain conflict, complication, and so on, in your story.  There are two ways to complicate a story: increase the stakes (i.e., keep adding to what your characters can gain or lose), or decrease the characterís ability to achieve a goal (e.g., more obstacles or perhaps outright losses).

I could go on for quite a while on this topic, but hopefully that's enough to inspire you.  

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Vincent M. Wales

Expertise

I am a speculative fiction novelist (fantasy, science fiction, and so on). While I may be able to answer questions on non-fiction, my specialty is fiction. Please keep that in mind when asking questions.

Experience

For four years, I taught a series of fiction writing classes in Sacramento, CA.

Education/Credentials
BA in fiction writing.

Awards and Honors
My 2004 novel, ONE NATION UNDER GOD, won BEST FICTION in Fresh Voices 2006, BEST FICTION and BEST YA FICTION in the NCPA Book Awards, and placed as a finalist in BEST BOOKS 2005. In 2002, my novel WISH YOU WERE HERE won awards for Best Fantasy and Best Fiction/Drama in the 8th Annual SPA Awards. My latest work is a trilogy titled THE MANY DEATHS OF DYNAMISTRESS (a superhero memoir). The first book, RECKONING, was released in 2013 and won the SF category in the 2014 San Francisco Book Festival, took second place in the 2013 Royal Dragonfly Book Awards for the SF/Fantasy/Paranormal category, second place in the SF category of the 2013 Reader Views Reviewers Choice Awards, and was finalist in Foreword's 2013 Book of the Year Awards, Fantasy category. The second book, REDEMPTION, will be released in early 2015 and the final book, RENAISSANCE, is scheduled for release in late 2016.

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