Tag Archives: Nathan Barra

The Extroverted Introvert – Faking It Until It Becomes Real

All stories require at least two participants: the storyteller and the audience. While this is obvious in the performances of bards, campfire storytellers, and stage actors, I would argue that writers are also intrinsically performers. We simply project that experience across space and time. And yet, writers and non-writers alike seem fixated on the idea that authors must be introverts to be successful. This is only true to a point.

Writers must be comfortable spending hours at a time in solitude. We need the time free from distractions to produce and polish our fiction. For that sort of work, having an introverted personality is very helpful. However, we must also be able to interact with fans and fellow professionals at conventions, book signings, and via social media. We must be able to promote ourselves to our target audience, discuss craft in an intelligent and thoughtful manner, and interact as business people. As such, writers must also be extroverted. Or have spent the time stocking our social toolbox with the extrovert’s tricks and tools.

Though the idea of an extroverted introvert seems like a fundamental conflict in dichotomy, I disagree. It really depends on how you look at the whole situation. You see, much of the discussion on introversion/extroversion recently has treated the issue as a matter of extremes. The dialog has taught us to think of them as two separate things. Instead, I believe that the difference between introverts and extroverts is more of a matter of where the individual gets their psychological and social energy, rather than being a fundamental characteristic of personality and social skills.

I am an introvert. I am a writer and an engineer. I spend most working days at my bread job in my office running calculations, researching, and solving problems. I collaborate, sure, but I can always retreat to my office and close the door when I need to focus. On the other hand, parties are work for me. I often enjoy myself, but leave the gathering feeling mentally and emotionally drained. I have to expend effort to be social, and will often feel refreshed after a weekend spent alone working on writing, watching movies, bicycling, and reading.

In contrast, I have a friend who is an extrovert. Let’s call her Jane. Jane recently started a job as an ER nurse, and so she is constantly interacting with patients, doctors, and other people. When we met in college, Jane lived in her sorority’s house, a building which was packed full of her sisters. When I expressed that I couldn’t live that way, she smiled and wistfully told me that she loved the energy of the house. When Jane surrounds herself with people, she’s excited and energetic. By my definition, she’s a classic extrovert.

That’s not to say that I don’t enjoy being around people, because I do. My groups just tend to be smaller than Jane’s. The most important thing to note about Jane and I is that we are both capable of functioning alone and in groups of people. It just takes effort. Jane is much better with people and social interaction than I am because she enjoys doing so and has had more practice. She’s helped me catch up over the years and taught me tricks and behaviors that I can use as an introvert to appear to be extroverted.

Social skills can be learned, practiced and perfected. At first I was faking my extroversion, but over the years, I’ve crept away from one extreme and now rest happily closer to the middle. In fact, people now insist that I must be extroverted. In my time at conventions, I’ve seen writers flub fan interactions. They may try to brush their behavior aside with the excuse “but I’m an introvert,” but they still lost a fan. Bad news for a businessperson. If they had practiced their extroverted skills that wouldn’t have happened.

Okay Nathan, you’ve convinced me that extroversion is important, but where can I start? Good question! Here are my top 10 favorite tips for being an extroverted introvert.

  1. BE GENUINE – Most people are very good at reading subtle body language cues and will know if you are faking interest in them. So, don’t try to fake it. Instead find common ground that you and the other person share as a passion. (Hint: This is what small talk is designed to do!) Then, you can be genuinely interested in the conversation. This also extends to insincere compliments. Just don’t do it.
  2. SMILE – People want to know you enjoy their company. One of the easiest ways to express this is through a simple smile. You don’t have to grin. In fact don’t as that is creepy. Even a small and genuine smile makes a big difference. Again, remember tip number 1. Try an experiment with me. For the next week, each time you approach someone make brief eye contact and smile at them. I promise that it’ll change how people interact with you.
  3. REMEMBER PEOPLE’S NAMES – I suck at remembering people’s names. It’s no excuse. Do whatever memory tool/covert glancing at badges it takes to address people by their first name. This will make them feel important and therefore more favorable towards you. One of the smartest businessmen I’ve ever known once told me that the key to success is remembering people’s names. Considering that he now runs a trucking empire that started with him driving a single pickup truck, I’d tend to believe him.
  4. BEING TIRED IS NO EXCUSE FOR BEING RUDE – For introverts, working a convention is hard. It exhausts us, makes our feet ache and puts us in a fowl mood. These are all personal problems. Our fans are at conventions to interact with us. When you are in any public space whatsoever you must have your game face on 100% of the time. Make sure each and every interaction is a positive one.
  5. NEVER APOLOGIZE FOR EXHAUSTION – As a corollary to tip 4, never call attention to the fact that you are tired by apologizing for it. Chances are, if you are doing your job they didn’t notice. By apologizing, you’ve made the other person feel like they are imposing on you, which isn’t a positive experience. However, if you’ve accidentally been rude or dismissive, be sure to apologize for that and be genuine.
  6. LET THE OTHER PERSON DO THE TALKING – “People have two ears and one mouth for a reason. Use them in their proper proportion.” ~ Jane. A benefit of this approach is that you get to conserve your social energies. All you have to do is listen, reword and repeat what they’ve said at appropriate intervals, and then ask them leading questions. Conventions are about your fans, their experiences and what they want out of you. Let them be selfish and hog the conversation. If they start apologizing for doing so, refuse their apology and insist that you are interested in what they say and ask them to go on. After an appropriate amount of time has passed, find a way to delicately remove yourself from the conversation.
  7. MASTER THE ART OF THE SOFT SELL – Nobody likes feeling pressured to spend money. Everyone you interact with on a convention floor is a person, not a mark. If you make selling to someone a difficult or unpleasant experience, people will start avoiding you. Instead, try to form a real bond with the person you are selling and if the opportunity comes up to talk about you or your work, be casual about it. Put the book in their hand and see if they buy. If it doesn’t come up, wish them a happy con and let them walk away. No social interaction is wasted time. Who knows, they may remember that nice author that took time to talk to them and look you up when they get home.
  8. IF SOMEONE IS RUDE OR HOSTILE TO YOU, KEEP YOUR COOL – You are a professional, and professionals don’t get into shouting matches on the convention floor. Especially if the other person deserves it. Stand up for yourself as necessary, walk away when you can, but always maintain your dignity and composure. The person who loses their cool first is the person who loses. Let them make an ass of themselves.
  9. TAKE RE-ENERGIZING BREAKS – I always have a set of ear buds on me when I’m at a convention. If I get flustered or need a moment, I find an uncrowded restroom, close myself in a stall, and listen to something loud and energetic for five minutes. I love music. It energizes me, helps me find my center, and lets me feel alone even when surrounded by people. It’s amazing how refreshing a small break is when you’ve been on the con floor all day. Experiment and find your re-energizing activity. Indulge for five minutes (set a timer if you have to) and then go back to work.
  10. NEVER EVER CRITICIZE ANYONE OR ANYTHING FOR ANY REASON, ESPECIALLY IF PROMPTED TO DO SO – Remember, fans attend cons for positive experiences. Not only is it tactless to criticize someone who can’t defend themselves, it makes you look bad. Remember the old adage, if you don’t have anything nice to say, be noncommittal or change the subject. Would you rather so-and-so hear that you’ve been singing their praises or criticizing their work? Writers travel in small circles, so we hear about what others are saying about us.

Writers are semi-public figures, and so we must have the skills to appear to be extroverted especially if we are not. We don’t get stalked by paparazzi or stopped on the streets by adoring fans, but we still need to be able to function in large groups. We need to be able to have meaningful interactions with complete strangers in the time it takes to sign a book and hand it back. We need to be able to feel comfortable to conduct business for the entire duration of a weekend convention. Ten years ago, I would have found that daunting. I hadn’t practiced my extroverted skills, and so it took Jane’s advice, and one of her favorite books (Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People) to teach me the importance of those skills and how to use them for my own benefit. I might not be an extrovert, but I’ve faked it so long that it has become somewhat true. In the end, that’s what matters.


About the Author:NathanBarra_Web
Though Nathan Barra is an engineer by profession, training and temperament, he is a storyteller by nature and at heart. Fascinated with the byplay of magic and technology, Nathan is drawn to science fantasy in both his reading and writing. He has been known, however, to wander off into other genres for “funzies.” Visit him at his webpage or Facebook Author Page.


Business by the Numbers

In order to be a professional author, to make enough money to live off your art, you need to treat your writing career with the same respect and diligence as you would any other type of business. Though it is possible to make money following intuition alone, it is very difficult to make consistent profits off feelings and hunches. For me, it seems like putting on a blindfold and stumbling around hoping to fall into a pot of gold.

Instead, businesses need to be able to quantify their success or failures objectively in order to make informed and useful decisions. Large corporations hire fleets of analysts to do this work for them. However, don’t let the math intimidate you! Writers, especially indie authors, typically don’t have nearly enough data to need someone devoted to the math. Additionally, there have been some very smart people who have already done most of the work for you. All you really need to do these days is to know which tools to use and which numbers to pay attention to.

Even still, I know how trying to dig into data can be intimidating. However, if you break the process down into 5 easy steps, it all becomes a whole lot more approachable.

The first thing you need to do when approaching any statistical analysis is define what you care about. There are ways to quantify just about anything you want to know. In fact, sorting the useful information from the noise is often the hardest part of any analysis. Approaching your pile of data with specific questions will help you get specific answers. So, what is it that you hope to get out of your career as an author?

There are tons of statistical tools choose from. Some are more intuitive than others, some more flexible, and yet others more comprehensive and powerful. Unfortunately, the more powerful the tool, the more difficult it is likely to be to use, and the more interpretation the results will require. Though it is a constant give and take, there are a few pieces of software that I think achieve a good balance and that I would recommend even for people who hate math.

One of my favorite pieces of statistical software is Google Analytics. I believe it to be one of the more powerful, flexible, and user friendly options available. Most importantly, it is free. After all, Google is the company made their fortune off being able to quantify the Internet. So, it only makes sense that their statistics software would also be top notch. Need help installing and configuring the software? The Google Analytics community is fairly robust. I’d recommend starting HERE. On the other hand Google Analytics has a lot of data and power. It can get quite involved and distracting if you let it. Be cautious as obsessively monitoring every page view can easily become a time sink.

Additionally, if you use Word Press for your website, I’d also recommend installing Jetpack. It comes with all sorts of useful widgets, one of which is a basic statistics program. Though you won’t be able to do any manipulation or dig into the data very far, it’s often good enough to give you a general idea.

Finally, most publishing platforms come with some sort of basic statistics modules. This will allow you to track sales, geography of purchases and several other metrics. One of the limitations here is that you track exactly what the distributor allows you to track. Almost always, their statistics are better than what you are given access to.

Chances are that you already have an audience that is interacting with your web page. So, the very first thing that you’ll need to do after installing any new statistics software is to allow for time to pass. Initially, I’d recommend continuing as you were for three weeks to a month so you can get a feel for how your business runs before you make any changes. Without a baseline, you’ll have no idea what is “normal” behavior and what is a reaction to a change you make. I’d also recommend establishing a new baseline each time you make a major alteration to to your business strategy.

Once you get to the point where you start running social experiments (Step 4), you’ll need to be willing to take a step back from the keyboard. Statistics takes patience. You can’t reasonably expect your consumers to respond immediately to your actions. Also, the initial reaction of a consumer group isn’t necessarily going to be their long term response. I’ve spoken to several indie authors who have tried raising the price on their books only to see an immediate drop off in sales. At that point, many of them lowered the unit price in a panic and swore they’d never ask for more money. However, *some* of the authors who stuck it out and let their new price stand for a few months noted that their sales returned back to their original baseline or even increased! Patience is key. So is being willing to risk and knowing how much you are willing to risk.

XKCD_CorrelationSOURCE: http://xkcd.com/552/

The bulk of statistics is finding the long lasting, consistent patterns in the noise. You want a change you can believe in. Just because you see a big spike, doesn’t mean that one event was caused by the other, nor can you even say that the spike is significant. Let’s say you spend $100 on advertising and sell 15 more books than your baseline sales. The next week, you spend another $100 and sell 2 more books than your baseline sales. Chances are that there is some deeper explanation in the first spike that differentiated it from the second. Any consumer group is going to have patterns in how they choose to spend their time and money. Find those patterns that represent a real response and you’ll be able to take advantage of them.

Let’s take my own website, www.NathanBarra.com, as an example. When I first looked at my own baseline, I noticed spikes of activity first thing in the morning, for a couple hours around lunch time, and in the evening. Additionally, I tended to see a spike in views on Mondays. Over the course of the week, the number of page views slowly died out until no one visited over the weekend. These patterns repeated over a the course of the month, so I had faith that they were a true look at my audience. Once I had the baseline, I needed to understand what the patterns meant.

Now it is time to go back to the goals we established in Step 1. Are you into writing to make money? In that case you should be tracking the Number of Units Sold and how many visitors Click Through from your website to a point of purchase. Additionally, you can gain some insight if you pay attention to your Audience’s Geographical Origin. If you plan to do a book tour, make sure you go to the places where you have lots of fans. If you have no readers in a particular region, try to find out why. Are your marketing dollars beings spent to reach the widest audience possible? Are your books even available to that audience? Do you need to devote more advertising money to that demographic? Additionally is your marketing proving effective? Do you see any spikes up to a new plateau or steady growth in purchases following a marketing push or promotion period?

Are you the kind of writer that just wants to get your stories in front of as many eyes as possible? Then focus on driving up the Number of Visitors (number of unique individuals that loaded any page on your website) and Number of Page Views (the number of total pages that were loaded). When combined with your web site’s Bounce Rate (the percentage of visitors who look at exactly one page before leaving), you can understand how your readers interact with your website. Additionally, you want to pay attention to your largest sources of visitors, particularly your referrals. These days, much of your audience will likely come from somewhere else, be it social media, Google, or a link a friend emailed them. These people are your Referral Visitors. They represent how often and how widely your links have been shared. If you can understand your biggest sources of referrals, you can know where to focus your efforts to get the biggest return.

Instead, are you trying to build a steady and faithful audience? If that is the case, you need to encourage Repeat Visitors (people who have been to your page before) and Organic Visitors (those who typed your URL into their browser directly). You want the ratio of repeat visitors to new visitors (called your audience’s Rate of Return) to be as high as possible while you minimize the Days Since Last Page View.

Keep in mind that you won’t often be able to manage to make progress on all your goals simultaneously. When I first started NathanBarra.com, I wanted to get my page out in front of as many readers as possible, with the long term goal of establishing a steady audience. To that end, I started experimenting.

Now that you have an idea of what “normal” is and what it means, you want to try to rock the boat a little and see what sort of waves you can make. Going back to my NathanBarra.com example, the first thing I did was change the amount of lag that I allowed between when I scheduled a post and when I first advertised it to my target audience. In the beginning, I saw that almost all my audience came from referrals that occurred after my media blast. I then went back posting and advertising near simultaneously. After a while, I started to wonder if I had become better established with a larger group of readers. I once again started delaying my media blasts and found that I had a steady flow of readers visit my page after I posted, but before I advertised. The things I had been doing to boost my audience had been working!

The key here is to change as little as possible and to wait long enough to observe meaningful results. If I were to spend see a spike in sales after a blog tour during which I also ran a BookBub campaign, which source of advertising should I focus on next time? There’s no real way to know.

Once you’ve made a change, return to Step 3. Wait, gather data, and then interpret the results. I would always recommend repeating any experiment at least twice. If you repeat your actions and see the same result, you can be confident that what you are seeing is real. If the results are different in consecutive experiments, then try to find out what is really causing your audience to react the way they did. Additionally, you need to take time to evaluate if the change you made supports your goals. If so, consider permanent implementation. If not, lesson learned, don’t do it again.

The key to any good statistical analysis is good interpretation. Take your time to think through all the possible reasons for the change, suing your experiments to hone in individual elements and actions. The longer you work at it, the more you’ll be able to determine from your results. Eventually, you will be so in touch with your audience that the statistics will just be a spot check to ensure that your audience is reacting the way you expected they would. Once you get to that point, you’ll understand why businesses focus on the numbers and leave the hunches for the amateurs.

About the Author:NathanBarra_Web
Though Nathan Barra is an engineer by profession, training and temperament, he is a storyteller by nature and at heart. Fascinated with the byplay of magic and technology, Nathan is drawn to science fantasy in both his reading and writing. He has been known, however, to wander off into other genres for “funzies.” Visit him at his webpage or Facebook Author Page.

Kill Them With Kindness

Whenever someone asks me where I grew up, I claim Atlanta. Though I was born in Ottawa and lived on or above the Mason-Dixon line for the first fourteen years of my life, the person I am today came into being through the time I spent there. Though, I’m not a true southerner (you can’t be unless your roots go five or six generations back), I have picked up on some of their tricks.

When I first moved to the south, I remember thinking how nice and polite everyone seemed to be. A large part of the Southern social contract is devoted to avoiding overt conflicts. True, brawling does happen, but relations often stay friendly after wards. Things happen at a much slower pace, and no one really cares if you are two or three hours late to a bar-b-q. Southerners have turned hospitality and friendliness into an art form.

They have also turned sneakiness and subtly into a competition sport. In this arena, southern belles are the Olympic athletes. I’ve met women who can flay you alive and leave you thinking that they paid you the sweetest of complements. It’s actually pretty amazing to watch.

This tendency comes from years of practice in a culture and social system that strongly discourages direct physical conflict and prizes politeness and civility. However, when you try to disarm someone they will simply find another means to fight. Humans are still apex predators no matter how much we work to “civilize” them. We are also social animals who constantly struggle for their place in the clan’s heiarchy. When you take combat into a social arena, you simply change the rules, not human nature.

Where physical combat is an attempt to damage someone’s physical body or possessions, social combat is a war of perception and reputation. The combatants are trying to insult, slight, discredit, and embarrass one another in such a way that it influences the opinions and views of those around them. In so doing, the combatants are trying to change how others react to and interact with their target. Though more difficult and much longer term, social combat can also be designed to change how a person views themselves and how they in turn interact with the world around them. Break down someone’s self esteem, make them feel worthless and stupid, and they will break.

We are taught to ignore social combat as children, that “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Unfortunately words, and the perceptions they alter, have incredible constructive and destructive power. Don’t believe me? Look at the absurd amounts of money political candidates pour into their media campaigns or the budgets that companies devote to advertising. These avenues are just mass social combat.

Social combat is nothing new to either life or fiction. However, it has seemingly had a resurgence in recognition and popularity. Reality TV is almost entirely based off turning social combat into a circus. Those sorts of bouts are more often like social brawls, however, lacking the refined elegance truly skilled combatants. For true social warfare, one can look to The Song of Ice and Fire books or their The Game of Thrones HBO made for TV adaptation. Many viewers love the politics and backstabbing as much, if not more than the physical conflicts. Some of the series’ most popular characters, such as Tyrion Lannister, Lord Varys, Little Finger, Tywin Lannister, Margaery Tyrell, and Melisandre, are beloved because of their skill and wit. In fact, the writers of The Game of Thrones directly call out the effects of social combat in a conversation between Varys and Tyrion in season 2 episode 3.

Varys: “Power is a curious thing, my lord. Are you fond of riddles?”
Tyrion: “Why? Am I about to hear one?”
Varys: “Three great men sit in a room, a king, a priest and the rich man. Between them stands a common sellsword. Each great man bids the sellsword kill the other two. Who lives? Who dies?”
Tyrion: “Depends on the sellsword.”
Varys: “Does it? He has neither the crown, nor gold, nor favor with the gods.”
Tyrion: “He’s has a sword, the power of life and death.”
Varys: “But if it is the swordsman who rules, why do we pretend kings hold all the power? When Ned Stark lost his head, who was truly responsible? Joffrey, the executioner, or something else?”
Tyrion: “I have decided I don’t like riddles.”
Varys: “Power resides where men believe it resides, it’s a trick, a shadow on the wall, and a very small man can cast a very large shadow.”

Social combat has a lot to offer fiction writers and our stories, but it is also difficult to use well. However, if you keep these six tips in mind, you can quickly find places to integrate this sort of conflict into your own writing.

  1. Not everyone is cut out to be a master of social combat. Most people are not particularly good at it or even aware enough to notice when it is going on. Do all your characters have huge muscles and advanced military training? Then why would they all be able to fence with grace and skill in the social arena? Characters who are masters of this sort of conflict are some combination of intelligent, witty, clever, well spoken, charismatic, and mentally nimble. Most importantly, they have experience using those attributes to influence others.
  2. People who are really good at social combat are also highly empathetic and perceptive. They understand how people will perceive their words and actions, and use that knowledge to create a desired effect.
  3. Social combat is still combat and should therefore have real and damaging stakes. After all, the diplomat and the swordsman both may be trying to kill you, but only one is doing so overtly. To ensure that proper tension is maintained, it is critical to make the consequences of failure are clear to the reader and the pacing appropriate to the conflict.
  4. Social combat is layered and filled with misdirection. Verbal sparring and the artful insults are rarely direct. Be sure to make full use of sarcasm, innuendo and referential humor (within the context of the story). Subtext is also a powerful tool. David Jon Fuller wrote a comprehensive post on this very topic last week, so I’d recommend taking the time to go look at it for some practical tips.
  5. If the conflict is too obvious, social combat becomes melodrama. However, if it is too subtle, it’ll be missed by all but the most astute. Where you shoot for on that continuum depends on your audience and how important the conflict is to your overall story. I have found a lot of success in using sequels and deep immersion to highlight social combat and its effects. After all, if your character is skilled at social combat they will be aware of when it is happening and will both plan for and react to social sparring matches.
  6. As writers, we have two major advantages over our characters when it comes to social combat. First, we have time to carefully think through and tweak each move in the conflict. Second, we enjoy unparalleled access to the thoughts and reactions of all sides of the conflict. Make sure you use these advantages for all they are worth!

Good luck and happy writing!

About the Author:NathanBarra_Web
Though Nathan Barra is an engineer by profession, training and temperament, he is a storyteller by nature and at heart. Fascinated with the byplay of magic and technology, Nathan is drawn to science fantasy in both his reading and writing. He has been known, however, to wander off into other genres for “funzies.” Visit him at his webpage or Facebook Author Page.

Always (or Never?) Leave Your Readers Hanging

Every so often, I hear a writer claim that everyone must “Always end your (book/chapter/scene/page/sentence/introductory clause) on a cliffhanger.” Yes, maintaining your reader’s momentum through the story is essential. Yes, cliffhangers can be an effective means of doing just that. Extremely so. By their very nature, cliffhangers leverage the reader’s investment in character or story to push the narrative forward and create a sense of urgency. However, they also run the risk of backfiring and driving readers away if used improperly or cheaply.

This sort of manipulation typically takes one of three forms. In the first instance, a beloved character is threatened, but neither their fate nor their response to the danger is revealed. It is a sort of dramatic pause, like cutting to a commercial break in your book. The emotional draw in this instance is dread; the reader wants to know that the character will survive the encounter. They keep reading to find this answer.

Another option is to have a powder keg moment. In this structure, the reader has been anticipating a specific event, usually some sort of violent conflict. It is akin to watching the fuse burn towards a keg of gun powder. The reader knows that the explosion is coming. They have been waiting for it, bracing for it. However, in the moment before the explosion of action, there is a prolonged stillness and the scene is cut. In this case, the draw is anticipation. The reader needs to see how the events play out and if those events match how they thought the scene would progress.

The third major case is what I sometimes call “the First Boot Drops.” A major story event occurs, often unexpected, but before the characters or reader have time to fully react, the story cuts. Though the threat to the character is implicit, the reader’s tension comes from not knowing what will happen next. They are drawn forward by their need to witness those consequences. They are waiting for the other boot to fall.

In all three cases, cliffhangers play upon the reader’s need to know the resolution to a threat against a beloved character. The situation must represent a believable and immediate threat whose consequences would be severely and personally damaging to the PoV. For that to happen, the reader must be deeply enough invested in the character to feel a sense of urgency. Used too early in the story, before a strong bond is developed between reader and PoV, the technique will feel like a cheap ploy.

The threat’s believability hinges on the reader’s trust of the author’s skill. I see cliffhangers as an addendum to the writer’s contract with the reader. They accept the situation because they believe that the writer will pay off on the promise with a satisfying resolution. Revealing that the character was never actually threatened after all is cheating. You might get away with pulling that sort of bait and switch once, but over use of cliffhangers will numb your reader to threats against the character. Once they come to believe that any threat against the character is an instance of “crying wolf,” it’s game over for your book.

As for immediacy, it is perfectly legitimate to cut to another PoV in order to draw out the suspense. However, the contents of that second PoV must be interesting enough to keep the audience moving forwards until you cut back to the character you left hanging. Furthermore, the threatened character needs to resolve their situation to pay off on the tension. Lag for too long, and the effect is lost.

Cliffhangers are an effective tool, not a one size fits all solution for every situation. They require authorial trust and reader commitment to be effective, as well as an impeccable sense of timing. Used too often, they begin to feel cheap and lose their effectiveness. However, betraying your promise to the reader is even worse. False anticipation will drive readers away faster than any other authorial sin.