Fulfilling Promises: 3 Tips to Make the Reader Come Back for More

The last time I talked about plot, I discussed making promises – this time, I’m going to go over the different ways you want to fulfill those promises.

As a reminder, a promise is when a writer tells the reader, implicitly or explicitly, what to expect. If a child knows their mother is bringing them a cupcake, they’ll be waiting eagerly for their mother to come home. It’s the same with readers – promises help move readers through a book, because they are looking forward to/anticipating/dreading the outcome of the promises you laid down.  

So how do you want to go about fulfilling your promises?

Option 1: Give your child a cupcake.

At the very least, do what you’ve promised to your readers you would do. The wolf attacks Red in the forest, the golden rosebud is a magical cure to a disease, the cathedral is the setting to the climax.

Now, I say “at the very least,” because if a story progresses exactly as the reader thinks it will, then the reader will get bored. It’s the writer’s job to figure out how to keep the promise they made, but add a twist to it that makes the reader happy. One way to do that is to…

Option 2: Give your child a cake.

Imagine your reaction if you were promised a cupcake, and instead your mom brings you an entire cake. That’s the type of excitement we want readers to feel when flipping through the pages of our book.

For writing, it’s basically the same as meeting the promise, just in a bigger way. A common example is in the final battle of epic fantasies: The hero has spent several books gathering allies, and in the final battle those allies arrive (promise met) but often in much greater strength than the hero was led to believe (promise exceeded).

Option 3: Give your child a puppy.

In some cases, you have something better for your readers than a cupcake—you have an entire puppy up your sleeve (it must be a very big sleeve). Essentially, you’re making a wager that the reader will love the puppy more than the promised cupcake, and so any disappoint they have will be overshadowed by their excitement.

A great example of this is Brandon Sanderson’s book Mistborn. This is essentially a heist story, but by the end of the story, the heist doesn’t really take place—instead, something much bigger occurs that is definitely more satisfying (read it to find out).


The concept of promises has extremely helped me in my writing, so I hope these two introductory posts on them have provided some insight for your own works! I will definitely be revisiting the concept in the future, so keep your eyes out – there’s so much more to explore!

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