Suspense is overrated

Too many writers delay revealing the topic of their prose, hoping that it lands with an ‘aha’ effect. All too sadly, this hurts them more than they realize it does.

Try making sense of the following sentences:

A newspaper is better than a magazine.
A seashore is a better place than the street.
At first it is better to run than to walk.
You may have to try several times.
It takes some skill but is easy to learn. Even young children can enjoy it.
Once successful, complications are minimal.
Birds seldom get too close. Rain, however, soaks in
very fast.
Too many people doing the same thing can also cause problems.
One needs lots of room.
If there are no complications it can be very peaceful.
A rock will serve as an anchor.
If things break loose from it, however, you will not get a second chance.

Did you get any of that? How many of those sentences can you recall?

Now what if I had told you before you read those sentences, that they all pertain to flying a kite? Doesn’t read like gibberish anymore, does it?

Researchers found that revealing the topic beforehand increased recall among their subjects to the tune of 75%. Revealing the topic after the subjects had read the sentences was on par with not revealing the topic at all.

Unless you are writing a suspense thriller, you are better off handing your readers a map before you lead them through the alleyways.

Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages. – Kurt Vonnegut

Inspiration: The Sense of Style

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