I is for Implied Contract and Invisible Character
There’s an implied contract between the author and the reader that goes something like this: Give me your money and your time, and I’ll let you experience what it’s like to be:
A vampire in love
A traveller to another world
A scientist racing against time for a cure
A werewolf looking for his soulmate
A detective trying to solve a murder
You must take a hard look at the offer you’re making: would you accept it if you were the reader?
Most people suffer from emotional problems of their own that hurt so much they keep trying to push them down. Fiction can lure them into a vicarious experience that discharges these emotions.
You have no power to make anyone read anything. You are involved in a transaction with the reader; if you want them to read, you must offer them compensation.
In part, this implied contract can be fulfilled by the invisible character. In every scene in your novel or short story, the invisible character must be free to roam. This character is the reader. Your readers must be made welcome and allowed to ask questions and discover things for themselves.
Your role as an author is that of host; the reader is your guest. As a matter of courtesy you open the door and welcome the readers in, you show them around, introducing them to the characters, explaining things that may confuse them. You stay with them, making sure they always have a good view of what’s going on and making sure they have enough information to understand it.
If you’re writing the story from a third-person point of view, remember that you, the author, are as invisible as the reader. You can’t address them directly, but you can make sure they get the information they need.
Imagine, as you write, that the reader is constantly commenting on what he or she sees and is asking questions:
Who is the story about?
Why are they doing what they’re doing?
Who is the story or scene about?
Where does the story take place?
When does the story or scene take place?
If you don’t ask these questions, your readers are sure to, and you must know the answers to satisfy your invisible character.