Answer the Questions Your Reader Will Ask by Christine Duncan I recently read a book by a NY Times bestselling author that totally ignored a big fact of modern life. Cell phones. At the climax of the book, the characters are in a town house with the killer in pursuit of them and it’s dark, and the killer tells them he has cut off all the phones and electric. But since they just walked into the house, I was fairly sure that at least one of the women had her purse and thus her phone. And I kept waiting for her to use it, to light her way around the house, if not to call 911.

She never did. And I lost my desire to care about the end of the book. I mean, why bother? I knew the killer. I knew that it was a continuing series.

My suspension of disbelief in that story was interrupted by what I knew to be a fact of modern life. How would the killer triumph over that? The fact that the author never mentioned it didn’t make the mere fact of it in our world go away, it merely eliminated my belief in her world.

If you’re struggling with how to do something in a story, ignoring the problem doesn’t make it go away. If the author had merely had the woman drop her phone in a mud puddle outside the house, I would have groaned at the triteness, but I would have read until the end. Because trite happens.

I have found that answering the reader’s questions is never a waste of time and paper. Knowing that the people reading what you write are every bit as smart as you is the ultimate compliment you as a writer can give them.


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