I love taking part in things like a pub quiz, Trivial pursuit, or shouting the answers to the TV in quiz shows. Shows such as Who Wants To Be a Millionaire, use a simple device to keep us watching through the adverts, or to at least return to the programme. They ask a question just before the commercial break, and then keep us hanging on over the break to find out the answer. There is something fundamental in our make-up to want to find out answers to questions. Who originally recorded that song? What was the film that actor starred in? We know that trying to recall the answer will keep us up, or alternatively wake us at 2 a.m. with the answer.
As writers we need to be asking and answering questions throughout our manuscript. There are the overarching type questions. Will the hero save the world? Will the heroine end up with her man? Will Dorothy ever get back to Kansas?
Realistically the reader knows the answer to these questions – of course Dorothy will get back to Kansas, but the reader is along for the ride, and wants to see how the main character solves the problem.
If the overarching question or dilemma was the only one, then our book would be quite short and rather boring, so we need to raise other questions along the way to keep the reader turning the pages.
Some of these questions may span multiple chapters, while others may get answered within one section.
In wanting to find answers, or how the character deals with the problems raised by the questions, we keep on turning the pages.