Writing 2.3 – A Contract with the Reader

brainsnorts inc.

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When I took a graduate class called “Writing the Novel” a few years ago, I learned two very important things.  First, if you tell a writer that her work in progress is a romance novel when she thinks she’s writing literary fiction, be prepared to see a chair fly across the room.  Second, there’s something called “The Contract with the Reader.”  Let’s forget about throwing chairs for a while and focus on the contract, which was something I had never heard of before.

Let’s pretend you’re in a bar and a guy sitting to your left says, “You want to hear a story?”  Of course you don’t, but you say, “Sure.  Thrill me.”  He knows sarcasm, so he says, “Tell you what.  If I give you a four-sentence setup, and you agree that you’re interested in hearing the rest, then you owe me a beer.  How’s that?”  So of course…

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