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Betraying Your Readers

I began the year talking about the importance of keeping your promise to readers. This means deciding the type of story you wish to tell, the content you will include, and the content you will leave out. For instance, don't insert gore into a cozy. Don't promise a mystery and make it a romance with little sleuthing. Don't promise a comedy and insert sexual abuse.

The deadliest sin an author can commit is false advertising.

I'll give you the latest example.

My daughter and I watch scary movies when she visits. It's our thing. At Thanksgiving, we looked up available new movies to rent and found this synopsis:

"Amityville: The Awakening: An ambitious news intern (Jennifer Jason Leigh) leads a team of journalists, clergymen, and paranormal researchers into a supposedly haunted house, only to unwittingly open a door to the unreal that she may never be able to close."

Sounds awesome, right?

Trouble is, the movie is just another Amityville remake with a woman and her three children moving into the house and experiencing the usual plot.

The actual synopsis is: "A woman and her three children move to Amityville and soon are plagued by the terrifying occurrences because they are living in the infamously haunted house."

I don't know where the wrong synopsis came from, nor why it was widely distributed as the synopsis for the movie across so many websites. Someone messed up somewhere.

The bottom line is, we were very disappointed. We kept waiting for the promised story to kick in. It didn't.

As a viewer and a reader, you must be able to trust an author to provide the type of story they promise. It can have twists and turns and a killer surprise ending, but betraying your audience with bait and switch is never okay. Readers will never trust you again. 

Betrayal results in one star reviews. Angry people review more often than content fans.
Living up to your promises earns fans.

For more about how to choose a promise check out, Story Building Blocks: The Four Layers of Conflict available in print and e-book and the free tools and information about the SBB series on my website. SBB II and the Build A Cast Workbook help you craft characters. SBB III helps you with revision. And the fourteen genre Build A Plot workbooks help you keep your story promise.

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