Storytellers are manipulators: we make the audience care about the characters, giving them reasons to identify with these imaginary people, then we hurt them*. Maybe not physically or even financially, but emotionally for sure.
For this is how story is made.
But when we are writing our tales of gut-wrenching woe, how do we keep the reader reading?
Conflict is often mentioned, but more basic than that are questions. We raise questions and then we answer them, but not necessarily immediately and not evenly.
“It is the question that drives us.”
– Morpheus, “The Matrix”
The questions raised can be of many different kinds, scopes and urgencies, and the questions themselves may be raised in varying ways. All of these elements can be mixed and combined to produce different textures and levels of tension.
Tension is what we are looking to induce: not knowing is one thing, but wanting to find out is what makes the reader read.
Putting these questions at the end of a chapter, or even a book, is one way to draw the reader forward into reading just one more page.
I am concerned with this at the moment because I am writing the season closer for A New Dawn. The player characters have learned of their abilities, that they are not alone, and they have thwarted a robbery. Writing the linkages between those sessions has been pretty simple: the first session ended with the bank wall across the road bursting outwards, for example – it was obvious what the question was there: it was obvious how to do the cliffhanger.
Crafting a satisfying closer this time is going to be interesting.
[*] normally I would disambiguate this pronoun, but here? The ambiguity is appropriate.