Making Readers Want to Know What Happens Next

By Jack Limpert

The long-running television show, “The Sopranos,” starring James Gandolfini as Tony Soprano, was a complicated story—a Mafia boss, his family, all kinds of characters, all kinds of organized crime. How did the creators got viewers into it during the first hour?

The first hour began with Tony driving the New Jersey Turnpike with the song, “Woke Up This Morning,” pounding in the background. Then Tony, after what appeared to be a panic attack, is in a psychiatrist’s office reluctantly telling the doctor (Lorraine Braco) about the stress of his life and work.

That allowed the show’s writer, David Chase, to flash the viewer back to key moments in Tony’s life—family conflict, having coffee with his Mafia pals, a brutal murder, and so on. Lots of emotional scenes come to life in the psychiatrist’s office..

When pulling together narrative stories for a The Washingtonian, I took a similar approach, almost always looking for a scene that had some emotional power to pull readers in and make them want to know more.

David Chase shrewdly used the psychiatrist to give viewers not just one scene but a half dozen of them that made the viewer want to see what happened next.

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