Delayed Gratification

When is the last time you really dissected a favourite book?

For the readers among you, let’s be naked honest… not ever. Honestly, why bother? Readers want to enjoy a damned good story, and how it works doesn’t matter. Not a whit.

Yet, for any writers, we’re constantly trying to decipher what makes a good book, a GOOD BOOK or a good show, A GOOD SHOW or a good movie, A GOOD MOVIE. Aren’t we? Go on, authors, raise a sheepish hand… *GRIN*

Something I’ve noticed in my dissection of different media – a secret withheld leads to delayed gratification for the reader/viewer.

Therefore, I find it is useful to remember the kind of experience I want for a reader. And I want them to experience delayed gratification.

To do this, I withhold a secret and use hints/foreshadowing sprinkled throughout the book, with a revelation (a few) at the climax.

So, the secrets will hopefully arouse audience curiosity. Hints/foreshadowing should feed that curiosity. My readers will hopefully be guessing the book’s secrets as they read. I predict they’ll guess some secrets, but not all of them.

What are books with a similar ability to deliver delayed gratification? Big Little Lies springs to mind. Read it or seen it? If not, then do.

And I’m not suggesting my book will be as good as my examples, but these are close to what I’m trying to achieve – in YA fantasy.

All the way through Big Little Lies we wonder, ‘who got murdered?’ But when we learn the secret, we are hit with not one secret (or twist), but two. And each “twist” has it’s own trail of breadcrumbs throughout the story, so the reader/viewer is satisfied at the end because the trail of breadcrumbs has made the ending inevitable. And the “twists” make the revelation of the secret, i.e. who got murdered, oh so satisfying.

If we’d known the secret ahead of time, the “twists” would have lost their impact. There would be no tension. What reader enjoys no tension?

What about in Great Expectations? *SPOILERS* don’t read the following paragraph if you haven’t read this book.

Pip meets a frightful man in the first chapter. Later we learn Pip has a mysterious benefactor. It’s only around the 70% mark, we learn this secret i.e. who is this mysterious benefactor?… and he is the frightful man of the first chapter. If the reader knew that at the outset, then how could’ve Dickens built such a mystery around it?

That’s the art of delayed gratification at play.

If it suits your story, try to achieve the experience of delayed gratification in your own work.

Can you name a book using delayed gratification?

Cross genres for authors: Same name or different name?

This is a question a lot of authors agonise over and it ultimately boils down to what you want.

However, first, I urge you to make an informed choice.

If you write cross genre, it’s recently come to my attention, whether you traditionally publish or you’re an Indie, you need to consider the impact of Amazon’s algorithms and how they affect your sales.

Most authors loathe marketing. It’s a fact. Learning how Amazon works and promotes your work, is a ticket to minimal marketing. So make Amazon work for you and don’t confuse it. Using the same name if you write cross genres is guaranteed to confuse Amazon.

Take me for example, I currently have a memoir and I’ll release fantasy in the future. Now, my fantasy will most likely be the stronger seller (fiction is more popular than memoirs, so it stands to reason) then it may appear in my memoir’s ‘Also boughts’ (on Amazon) if I used the same name.

Amazon algorithm’s can’t differentiate between a fantasy and a memoir. A browsing memoir reader will be confused to see a fantasy on a memoir page. What do you think happens next?

What happens is not Amazon’s fault. The reason it happens? An author uses the same name.

Just throwing another initial into your name on a book in one of your genres (different to other genres), can help the loathed marketing chore. Different names is something Amazon algorithms can differentiate between. ‘Also boughts’ are a free form of Amazon marketing, so it’s worth making them work for you.

When deciding one name or a different name consider the impact of Amazon’s algorithm for your ‘Also boughts’ if you write cross genre.

If you want to see what inspired me to write this post, watch this (starting around the 15 minute mark, although the entire video is time well spent).  Many thanks to Joanna Penn and David Gaughran for educating me.