Every Easter my husband and I take 16 pupils on a writing retreat. On one of these glorious weeks, the tutor and novelist Stephen May was teaching us about the dynamics of plot when he shared a quotation that has stuck with me every since:
Make ’em laugh, make ’em cry, make ’em wait.
It summarises, in the simplest way I’ve come across, what I long to achieve for my readers. I want them to feel deeply and to experience a whole range of emotions – to laugh and to cry, ideally within the space of a few lines – and I want them to be itching to find out more.
This week, a What Milo Saw reviewer on Twitter said that they were curled up in bed late at night, desperate to find out what happened next. My hear sang! At other times, a reader has shared with me that the ending made them shed a tear, or that some of the scenes in the nursing home made them laugh, even though they knew that the overall situation for Gran and the patients was tragic.
Making people laugh and cry and itch to read on is what keeps me writing – and re-writing, so that the story that reaches my dear readers is a moving and exciting experience. It’s the reading experience I love most and long my readers to have too.