Today I’m talking about a device I use in my writing. While editing, I often spot places where an author can use it too. If I’ve worked with you on an editing project, you know I’m a stickler about the ends of your scenes carrying enough weight to launch the reader to the next chapter and keep her from putting the book down. One of the ways to do this is BACKLOADING.
First, I have an exercise for you. Go find your favorite book. Turn to your favorite scene and scan to the end. Is there a big fat ending hook there? Some DUM DUM DUM! that makes you groan with the realization you can’t put the book down and the kids need to eat grilled cheese again? Now write that sentence down. Look at it hard. What is the last word?
Here’s a line from a scene in my brand new book STRANDED AND STRADDLED:
Her lips parted on a gasp, and he plunged his tongue deep.
Now let me rewrite that.
Her lips parted on a gasp, and he plunged his tongue into her mouth.
See any differences? Does it feel the same?
The idea of backloading is to end your sentence with the strongest word possible. Here’s another example from Em Taylor‘s awesome new Regency romance coming November 22.
Even though the way she had been freed from Newthorpe’s clutches would no doubt haunt her forever, she now had some element of control back. That prospect, at least, gave her some comfort.
Good right? Now here’s how she made it great:
Even though the way she had been freed from Newthorpe’s clutches would no doubt haunt her forever, it gave her some comfort that she now had gained back some element of control.
The second version is sharper, to the point, and the end of the sentence reveals the character’s strength, which in turn makes the reader fist-punch the air.
Do not–I repeat–do not backload every sentence. Or even every paragraph. You know how songs have parts with no singing and just instrumental? You need those beats of rest time, and so do your readers.
DO backload your sentence when you’re trying to make an important point.
DO backload to keep the reader from putting your book down at the end of scene or chapter.
Thanks for reading and happy backloading. (That sounds naughty. I had to throw it in).