How to Entice Your Readers to Read the Next Sentence…and the Next

by | Writing | 8 comments

“It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.”  — Albert Einstein

skunkbackload.jpgDo many of your sentences and paragraphs end with words, such as “his,” “it,” “with,” or “was”? If yes, you’ve left your reader with a dull word. It gives him little motivation to move on to the next sentence.

This doesn’t mean your reader won’t read on, but wouldn’t you like to entice your reader into reading your next sentence?

Tweetable

  • Entice your reader to read on by ending each sentence with a power word. 
    click to tweet

A power word:

  • Is tied to the meaning of a sentence or paragraph.
  • Leaves the reader with what you want him to feel.
  • Leads the reader to the next sentence.

file0001338460061.jpgExample 1:

Unloaded

Barbara clamped her mouth shut, unwilling to rile a man who carried a rifle under his arm and a hunting knife strapped to his leg.

Backloaded:

Barbara clamped her mouth shut, unwilling to rile a man armed with a rifle and a hunting knife with a twelve-inch blade.

The first version leaves the reader with the man’s leg. If the sentence was about his wounded leg, “leg” might be appropriate to backload. But it’s about Barbara’s fear of his dangerous look. A knife scares me more than a rifle does. And the blade of a big knife is even scarier. So, I chose blade over leg, rifle, or knife.

Example 2:

Unloaded:

He was still dead, no matter how long she stared at him.

Backloaded:

No matter how long she stared at him, he was still dead.

The first sentence leaves the reader with a boring pronoun. “Him” tells us nothing about the sentence. The second version’s “dead” gives us the finality of the situation. Hopefully, the reader will want to know what she’s going to do now.

file00063104814.jpgExample 3:

Backloaded (first this time):

“She splayed her arms over her paper-covered desk and knocked her head on the piles. This was all Jason’s fault. Jason needed space? Right. What he needed was freedom to date that woman with a waist the size of his muscular neck.” (From Calculated Risk by Zoe M. McCarthy)

See how each last word tells something about the heroine, Cisney, or her ex-boyfriend, Jason?

  • “Piles” points to Cisney’s disordered desk and life.
  • “Fault” points to how she feels about Jason in her predicament.
  • “Space” points to the excuse of someone who’s at fault.
  • “Muscular neck” leaves the reader with the feeling of a powerful person hurting vulnerable Cisney. Hopefully, the reader will want to know what Nick, who’s on his way to her office, is like in contrast.

Suppose I’d written the paragraph this way:

She splayed her arms over her paper-covered desk and knocked her head on it. The fault was Jason’s. Space was what Jason wanted? Right. What he needed was freedom to date that woman with the small waist.

“It,” “Jason’s,” “wanted,” and “waist” don’t link to Cisney’s life, how she’s feeling, or anything about Jason.

Tweetable

  • End each sentence with a power word, leaving the reader with a sense of its message.
    click to tweet

How might using backloading improve a sentence in your work?

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8 Comments

  1. medazmr

    What a great post Zoe. I’ve been wondering why some of my sentences feel dull. This is the answer I was looking for.

    • Zoe M. McCarthy

      Medazmr, wow. I’m glad the post helped. Thanks for sharing.

  2. P. T. Bradley

    Great reminder! Need to print this out and paste it over my computer!

    • Zoe M. McCarthy

      P.T., I have checking my sentences and paragraphs for stronger endings on my scene check list, and that helps remind me.

  3. Jane Foard Thompson

    Very helpful! We pay a lot of attention to chapter endings, but this demonstrates how important even paragraph endings are. There is no coasting in fiction writing, is there?

    • Zoe M. McCarthy

      Jane, I hope with each new book I’ll take the time to pay attention to the little things that help.

  4. Donna Basinow

    Great post! Thanks, Zoe! I shared it around!

    • Zoe M. McCarthy

      Thanks, Donna, for your encouragement and for sharing.

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