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Make your readers invest

Many people criticise long novels and use the classic phrase, "It took a while to get going and was a bit slow, but once it did, it was excellent."

Usually the reason it became excellent was due to all the build up.

If you introduce a character in chapter one and then kill them off in chapter three, many of the readers won't care too much.

If you introduce a character in chapter one and we see him meet a woman, fall in love, find new work, move house and then he dies, a lot of readers will be quite upset. The readers have met the character and grown with him. We have been through so much with this guy that now he's dead we miss him. We've got to know his wife and we feel sorry for her too. We wonder how she'll cope.

A long build up does not necessarily mean that a bond will form between reader and character. Also, a long build up might mean that you lose some readers along the way who give up. But it my opinion, a build up that forces a reader to emotionally invest in a book will bring about a greater return later on in terms of the readers level of response to your twist at the end.

But it has to be done right. This is a completely personal opinion, but for me, there was not enough detail and personal information about any of the hobbits from Tolkien to persuade me as a reader to emotionally invest in the story and care about the hobbits. I didn't. Even though it was a long build up I really didn't mind what happened to any of them. Towards the end of Return of the King I began to accept there was a close bond between Frodo and Sam, but that was a too little too late. Especially when you ended up with four of the little short chaps bounding about. First time I read the book, I was continually thinking, "Come on, there's four of them, there's more than enough to spare, surely one of them at least must get squished or eaten sometime soon.' And if it had happened, I would not have batted an eyelid. Maybe I just don't like Hobbits.

My novels are usually comedies with darker undertones, so the joke ratio is stacked heavily towards the beginning, to keep people entertained while I lay all the groundwork and try and persuade the audience to invest in the characters and care for them. Once they have and you begin to unwrap the bleak shadow that is looming in the back of your plot, it can be quite dramatic. Especially as you start to thin the jokes out a bit and let longer darker sections creep in.

If some scheme is going to go wrong in your plot, the more we see of the scheme being thought up, planned out and set in motion, the more we as a reader have become involved in supporting the scheme, so the more we emotionally feel when it all collapses. Equally, the longer a threat builds up and looms and the more sinister it seems, the greater relief we feel when the characters we care about escapes it.

The trick is not to over labour the point, but to lay enough groundwork that the reader is convinced by your character/scenario and happy to allow themselves to believe in it.