Thursday, April 18, 2013

Flirting with the Reader: The Pleasures of a Good Tease.

by RR Gall

    Knock knock.
    Who’s there?
    Tease who?
    The detective has gathered all the suspects into one room of this splendid house. The piano tuner – Major Alan Hollingsworth(retired) – is dead, crushed when the massive lid of a grand piano fell on his head as he tinkered away with its inners. Unusually the deceased appears to be well-liked and his piano tuning was more of a hobby than a job. In fact, Hollingsworth would only work on the finest of grand pianos, leaving the detective to suspect it was merely a method of meeting wealthy and influential families, a way to tell them about his family’s parquet flooring company.
    The crash of the falling lid had been heard throughout the house. The sonorous death chord, in A Flat Major, had brought everyone running – but no-one appeared to have witnessed the crime.
    Now as he stands in the centre of the room, the detective looks round at the ten faces before him. Suddenly, he points a finger at Artur Filey, used carpet salesman, and cries, ‘He did it!’ The doors burst open, the police rush in, and the man is arrested. The End.
    We might feel a little disappointed, even a little cheated, if this ever happened in, say, an Agatha Christie novel, as more is expected from the denouement. We are used to it being stretched out. So it is my theory that teasing is a good thing, and in moderation, can and should be applied to other parts of a story.
    When a detective is interviewing a suspect, for example, delaying the answer to an important question may be beneficial: not only does it break up a sometimes flat question and answer sequence, it can help build tension, as well as give the reader time to consider the implications of the question.
    The same teasing can be applied to other aspects of a story. In The Case of Colourful Clothes and Kilts (second book of my trilogy) the detective arranges for a hospital walking stick but it is many pages later until he uses it, and it is not until the end of the book that the reason is given: the aim being to keep the reader thinking and guessing while other matters are on-going.
     And then there is the root of the mystery, the heart of the story. In some circumstances, the drama can be heightened if it is exposed, not in one full gush, but by one delicate layer after another.
    So, used sparingly – no-one likes to be teased all the time – delaying outcomes, in my view, can be a useful aid in writing.
    Tease who?
    Tease all crossed and I’s all dotted, time to get this beast published.
    Okay, that might not have been worth the wait. But some things can be.

Click here to visit RR Gall's Website

    The Dumfries Detective trilogy is available on Amazon:
    Part 1. The Case of the Pig in the Evening Suit.
    Part 2. The Case of Colourful Clothes and Kilts.
    Part 3. The Case of the Hermit’s Guest Bedroom.

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