The Payoff

Sam Merrill Trail

Whether you outline or write by the seat of your pants (pantser), your story needs structure.

Here are a few reasons why:

  • Excitement, for example. You know, twists and turns. Why should people read your story if nothing happens?
  • Interesting characters. Why should we read about folks we don’t care about?
  • A clash, a climax, a confrontation with an antagonist (human or non). If it’s all easy for the main character, who cares?
  • A goal, the thing your story is reaching for, or that the main character needs or wants (not necessarily the same thing). What happens when he gets it? What if he doesn’t get it? Why should I go on this trip if there’s no destination?
  • A payoff. There’s got to be a resolution, good or bad. It doesn’t have to tie up every loose end, but it has to satisfy. Have you ever read a book that leaves you hanging and you HAVE to read the sequel to find out what happens? It feels like you’ve labored to climb the mountain, then there’s nothing at the top. No peak, no view, nothing. That’s a surefire way to get me NOT to read the sequel, after I throw the book in the trash and give it a 1-star review. Because I stuck with the story, and the author cheated me.

Never waste your reader’s time. Give them a payoff for sticking with your story.

#Altadena#Sam Merrill Trail#story structure


  1. William Kendall - December 16, 2016 @ 08:33

    Wise advice!

    • Petrea - December 16, 2016 @ 09:13

      Thanks, William.

  2. Lowell - December 16, 2016 @ 10:31

    I shall print these out and refer to them every time I think I need to write a story! Thanks!

    • Petrea - December 16, 2016 @ 15:03

      Just a few things we writers pick up from each other along the way, right Lowell?

  3. TheChieftess - December 16, 2016 @ 23:23


  4. Shelley - December 19, 2016 @ 23:22

    Ah, I’m glad I can be a pantser as long as there’s structure in my pantsing. Thank you, Petrea !

    • Petrea - December 20, 2016 @ 07:57

      I’m not a person who thinks a writer has to be one or the other. I use both methods myself.

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