written by Bryan Hutchinson
Everyone wants to know the answer to the kazillion-dollar question:
How do you get readers to show up, read your work, and become so invested in it that they can’t help but talk about it for days, weeks, and perhaps even years after they’ve read it?
The first thing first is the most obvious, tell a good story.
Here’s the thing, though, lots of writers tell good stories, whether it’s a 2000-word article, a catchline, or even a book (especially a book).
And yet, a good story in of itself is not always enough.
After all, you’ve written good stories, and so have I, and yet we’ve both struggled to get readers to care enough to tell their friends and neighbors about what they’ve read.
What was missing?
What’s the special ingredient that gets readers to keep coming back, rereading it so often that even they are astounded as to why they can’t put your story down.
The Secret Sauce
You need a good hook: An Enticing Mystery, or Two, or Three.
It seems simple enough, right? Create a mystery—I mean, everyone loves a good mystery. And yet, it’s not that simple at all.
In fact, there is a mystery genre in writing, but if you’re like me writing a mystery story itself isn’t your cup of tea, and not all readers want to read a who-done-it. Then again, many love to read and write in the genre, just ask Watson!
That’s okay, if you don’t, your story could be a romantic thriller, or a romcom, or an epic fantasy story, or you could simply be trying to come up with the best slogan for a company that hired you.
All of these types of stories have room for a good mystery in them, questions the reader wants to answer, and when those questions are finally solved the reader receives such a powerful dopamine kick that it keeps them coming back to find out if they missed anything.
A good mystery or mysteries within your story is one of the key ingredients that make your writing must-read material. Readers love to question things. We, you and I, we are both readers too, we love to be fascinated and wonder about what was the meaning of this or that, and did that really happen the way you read it?
If you have a good story that the reader becomes invested in, you want to pull them in even further with mysteries they can solve (or think they can solve) and, more importantly, want to solve.
The Best Way to do This
One of the best ways I’ve found to create a good mystery readers are compelled to solve is to not make the hook so obvious. Sometimes this happens as a natural occurrence due to the story itself and sometimes you have to get creative and purposely add the elements of mystery.
In my new book, The Wee-Jees, there are several mysteries tied into the story, some are obvious, and others are obscure, which when done right makes the story even more compelling.
Let’s start with the title: The Wee-Jees.
What are Wee-Jees? It’s a unique title because it sounds familiar yet is still so unfamiliar. What is it—where’d it come from? It’s a mystery, and I only reveal the answers within the story (or do I?).
This question of what the Wee-Jees are is even more compelling thanks to the subtitle of the book, A Ghost Story Based on True Events.
Are they ghosts?
You’ll have to read the book to find out! So, already with the title, we have a mystery hook. But the title alone is not enough.
There are many mysteries within the story itself, I am already receiving a ton of messages about chapter twelve, The Two Jakes. Some say what’s in that chapter is the spookiest thing they’ve read in a long time (in the best way possible).
But most people are emailing me a certain question about another event in another chapter, which I won’t reveal here. The answer, after all, is in the book, and in this case, like all good hooks, the answer itself is shrouded in mystery, too. It’s a great discussion starter when the book becomes the choice read in reader groups.
Several of the inquiries I’ve received have been unanticipated and have caught me by surprise, so parts of the mysteries were unintentional and are a natural part of the story. Good stories, especially those based on true events, will always have mysteries that develop within themselves. Some questions will never be answered.
Coming of Age and Love Story Questions
The story in my mind for 30 years wasn’t just about the strange events. My friends, and a young boy and girl’s first budding relationship, those stories get told because in order to give context to the otherworldly events I had to tell you, the reader, about everything that happened before, during, and after the events themselves.
It’s the context that makes this book so special and allows the already strange events to stand out in their absurdity. It’s also this coming of age story that really connects and raises questions within readers, especially those who see glimpses of their own childhood within my story.
These questions I could not anticipate as everyone sees a part of themselves somewhere in this story. So beware, memories can be triggered, much as Stephen King’s Stand by Me did for audiences in the 80’s.
How Many Are There?
A fun mystery in The Wee-Jees, which requires perhaps several rereads to solve, is:
How many ghosts are there?
How many ghosts are in the story? I’ll give you a hint, not all the ghosts in the book are obvious. There’s some sixth sense stuff going on that not everyone figures out after the first read-through, or the second, for that matter. Don’t worry, that’s not as big a giveaway as you might think–or is it? However, one Amazon reviewer (this is a clue) revealed some of the ghosts in her spoiler review (she guessing and she could be right).
Let’s have fun with this.
Enter to Win:
I tell you what, for anyone who has read The Wee-Jees, I’ll send you a gift if you solve the following mystery:
- If you send me an email to bryanpositivewriter (at) gmail (dot) com correctly naming and/or describing all of the ghosts in the story, I will reply to you with a $50.00 Amazon gift card! You must name and/or describe ALL of the ghosts.
I’ll update this post here when the mystery has been solved! Send your answer to:
Take your time and read the book a few times before sending me your answer because I will only accept one entry per reader and only the first person who gets it right will win! The cut off to send your answer to me is Halloween, Oct 31, 2020!
The best part is that the book is just 99cents on Amazon until Midnight, 31 October! So it’s a small investment to read a nice little spooky story and have fun doing it. I recommend reading this one in bed, in the dark, with a flashlight the first time (if you dare).
It’s a short book, so surely you can read it several times before the 31st! Keep a pencil and notepad with you while you read it during the second (or third) time.
All great stories do this, they have a good mystery, or several mysteries, layered within them.
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Your post gave great information about how to layer mystery into a Story. Thank you for sharing.