Remember: The READER Doesn’t Know The Characters Are Okay!

At a few key places in The Water Castle, I really built up the tension – and it works. Nail biter stuff.

The reader is tense, the character is tense…

Hell, I was tense.

(I discovered a little trick, that whatever I wanted the reader to feel, I had to make a character feel. We’re in their heads after all, as readers, so if they are biting their fingernail and creeping slowly holding their breath, we tend to do that, too. I mean, you have to paint it right but that’s a big part of it. That’s also why, if your MC likes/dislikes/trusts/loves/hates another character, your reader will, too – if you allowed the reader to know and like the MC first.)


At a few other places that should have had tension, the story didn’t deliver it.

(Yet; it’s the first draft.)

Stacie’s friend is suddenly hauled away by Spanish soldiers from the 1600’s to the dungeon. Sure, Stacie gets nervous, as does the friend, but neither gets super upset.


Um… what was I thinking?


Two things. One, I know her friend doesn’t get hurt. Because I wrote it. I know she’s okay and not to worry too much.


That wasn’t intentional; I was excited to get on to the next scene – where some big time drama was about to happen. (That’s number two, of the two things.) There’s a big cliffhanger ending to that chapter, too. It totally rocks. Stacie… I don’t know. She was in the way. Stand over there; I’ll get to you, Stace.


That’s because I know nothing bad happens to Stacie or her friend.


I have to remember the reader doesn’t know that, and build it up.


That’s why first drafts are shit. But luckily, we get to make second drafts. In that version, I’ll add the necessary emotion, and then the big drama scene will be even bigger.


What are some of the mistakes you’ve caught between your first and second drafts?


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Dan Alatorre is the author of several bestsellers and the hilarious upcoming novel “Poggibonsi: an italian misadventure.” Click HERE to check out his other works.

Published by Dan Alatorre AUTHOR

International bestselling author Dan Alatorre has 17 titles published in over a dozen languages. From Romance in Poggibonsi to action and adventure in the sci-fi thriller The Navigators, to comedies like Night Of The Colonoscopy: A Horror Story (Sort Of) and the heartwarming and humorous anecdotes about parenting in the popular Savvy Stories series, his knack for surprising audiences and making you laugh or cry - or hang onto the edge of your seat - has been enjoyed by audiences around the world. And you are guaranteed to get a page turner every time. “That’s my style,” Dan says. “Grab you on page one and then send you on a roller coaster ride, regardless of the story or genre.” Readers agree, making his string of #1 bestsellers popular across the globe. He will make you chuckle or shed tears, sometimes on the same page. His novels always contain twists and turns, and his nonfiction will stay in your heart forever. Dan resides in the Tampa area with his wife and daughter. You can find him blogging away almost every day on www.DanAlatorre or watch his hilarious YouTube show every week Writers Off Task With Friends. Dan’s marketing book 25 eBook Marketing Tips You Wish You Knew has been a valuable tool for new authors (it’s free if you subscribe to his newsletter) and his dedication to helping other authors is evident in his helpful blog.

26 thoughts on “Remember: The READER Doesn’t Know The Characters Are Okay!

  1. You have a very good point there, Dan. We do sometimes forget that our readers don’t know our characters as well as we do, especially in a series…

    1. I was so excited about the NEXT scene, I missed a great opportunity to create a great scene in the one I was IN! D’oh! I think just about every critique partner called me on it. Oh, well. Now I get to write another scene. (Or rewrite parts of two existing scenes.) I can do that.

  2. Same principal as “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader.”
    It’s easy to forget to think about what a character feels when we’re trying to get the words of the story down. I tend to go back over what I wrote several times (too many times, I’m sure) and add that layer in gradually. What I call a first draft is probably more like a second or third. My “true” first drafts are just a mess… 🙂

  3. First of all, your first draft sounds way better than any of mine ever have. My first drafts sound more like a 200 page synopsis. (they did this and then that, then they kissed and more stuff….)

    Secondly, isn’t it funny after you let a manuscript rest for a bit, you can see those crazy gaps? Like: why was that character speaking when she wasn’t even in the room? How can my character be driving and walking at the same time?

  4. I have sooo done the same thing. Since I know everything’s going to be fine, I don’t put in the necessary tension on the first go-round. Sometimes it takes a couple drafts or even a beta reader to find it.

    Editing. Ugh. If the writing fairy ever offers me a superpower, I would ask to be able to write excellent first drafts. Until then, it’s try and try again until it sparkles.

    Keep polishing, Dan. I’m sure it’ll be great. 🙂

  5. I think I’ve told this story before but in Scripting the Truth, I had this whole set up that I wanted to have happen and I couldn’t figure out how to make it happen. It wasn’t until I went back in my first real read through that I realized I forgot to let the sister in law have her baby. She was like fifteen months pregnant at the end of my first draft and letting her have the damn thing solved all my how do I get from point A to point B issues.

  6. Great post, I’ve never actually got to the end of a first draft yet, I’ve always lost interest. Your post gives me faith that I could sort it out in the 3rd, 4th, 5th drafts! Thanks.

  7. This is so true! I´m on my first draft and it´s just shit. Thinking about my second draft with the necessary emotions. I´ll remember: readers don´t know the characters are okay. Thanks, Dan 🙂

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