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This is my first attempt at writing a novel and I am learning in the process.

So my story is about a girl who is having an ordinary life with any standards and then she gets divorced and learns more about love and sex in spiritual traditions and finally sets out to find her inner self.

I had read novels like Da Vinci Code or Harry Potter where we anticipate what will be the end and these books create a page turning effect as we want to know what and how the end happens.

In my story, the end is not as important as the story itself. Also what will happen in the end is not and cannot be anticipated by the reader, at all, as to where the story begins, has nothing to do with where it ends. The story itself is the learning. It is not a comedy and not a suspense, it's a drama, without an interesting end.

I am thinking how can I create an effect in the story to make my readers constantly ask the question, how will this end?, like the novels I mentioned above.

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    How will you resolve the conflicts that you present in the story? If the readers are constantly wondering how things will end and you won't resolve it in a satisfying interesting climax. – Totumus Maximus Jul 31 '18 at 15:33
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    I've read stories where the ending was the last thing I wanted to get to, the story was more enjoyable than it's eventual destination and it kept me reading compulsively but I couldn't tell you how that effect was achieved. "Also what will happen in the end is not and cannot be anticipated by the reader" don't bet on it, people are oddly intuitive sometimes and other times they cheat. – Ash Jul 31 '18 at 15:52
  • @TotumusMaximus I did not understand the second line...are you suggesting I should not resolve the conflicts chapterwise and keep them in the end? – user30875 Jul 31 '18 at 16:05
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    @FriedrickNietzsche you should do both, in a way. Create and resolve conflict at every turn but keep a bang for the end. – Totumus Maximus Jul 31 '18 at 16:33
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    I would simply recommend against making people wonder about the ending if you are not planning on delivering on it. People wonder about the ending because they think the ending will be the climax of the story, so if you make your readers expect a climax where there won't be a climax, they will be let down. Unless you really want to manipulate their expectations to later spit on them, that's it. – HorriblePerson Jul 31 '18 at 17:10
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The page turning effect can be for the long term, but it is much more important for it to be short term.

The reader should always be wondering "what happens next", and this is much of what causes page-turning. Your character, even by your own short description, can be facing a slew of multiple suspenseful decisions and choices that get resolved, but other suspenseful things face her. You can create a chain of them, and devise them in such a way that they overlap and show her character, so the reader feels more and more like they know her, care about her, and want to see what happens to her next.

she gets divorced ...

That is a big decision with lots of good points of short-term conflict and character building. What conflicts with her spouse led her to this decision? What is the straw that broke the camel's back? Did she agonize over this? Did she decide in a moment of outrage? Did she drive the divorce out of love or an affair? Did she get financially screwed in this divorce, or end up financially well off?

and learns more about love and sex ...

Another strong source of temporary conflicts; in fact nearly every Romantic Comedy is focused on just the first, 'love', with sexual compatibility a secondary plot.

How long before she decided to date? Did she take the initiative or did some guy ask her out? Did she agree right away? What went into making the decision to accept even a date? Sooner or later she gets naked with somebody, what went into that decision? Was it deliberate? Was it accidental? Either way, did she regret it? How many partners did she have in this journey? How did they disappoint her? What revelations did she find along the way? Was her heart broken by choosing liars, or promiscuous dates? Did anybody try to force themselves on her? Were they successful, or did she defend herself? Did she do anything new (that she had not done in her marriage)? Did she pursue anybody that rejected her? Did anybody propose to her?

... and finally sets out to find her inner self.

Why? Surely some sort of internal conflict brought her to embark on this course of action; what was it? If this is the "finally" of your story, whatever it was should be foreshadowed throughout the divorce and her various adventures in love and sex, something must be missing and that should make her marriage, her single life, her love and sexual activity all lacking something, and the point of the book is showing us how she finally came to realize what this lack is; and that is what drives her into this search for who she really is and what she really wants from life, love, and sex, what she in retrospect realizes was missing from her life-up-to-now.

By foreshadow, I mean do not say this explicitly; it should be something that looking back the reader can realize truly was missing, all the time, but must be behind the scenes as it were. You can pick whatever that missing element is (sexual, spiritual, intellectual, emotional), but you don't want to blurt it out and give away the ending.

Instead, figure out the consequences of this missing piece, and show us, again and again, those consequences, but not the cause. If you can't come up with enough consequences, you don't have a good story driver, think of something else!

If you can think of enough consequences, you engineer your scenes to show them, but like your readers, your girl does not realize what the common thread is in all her relationships. Until the finale. Then all those short-term suspenseful scenes, already resolved, can be seen in a new light, the conflict was all manifestations of the same thing, and she doesn't like this about herself, and now she needs to figure out how to fix herself and break this trait and become a different person that can be happy.

Give her a flaw, not one so bad we won't love her, and nothing you ever say explicitly or she ever realizes explicitly, but a general flaw you can show manifest itself in various ways for many scenes, perhaps with escalating bad consequences. Then you have a story, and the ending, even if not filled with action, can still be momentous: She finally realizes what she really wants to change about herself, and believably, with conviction, takes some momentous, courageous and irrevocable step onto the path of doing that.

We love her for that. The End.

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    Thank you for your answer. That answers my question as well guides me a lot. – user30875 Jul 31 '18 at 17:28
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    Oh my. More often than I expect, I come across an answer on this site that deeply inspires and motivates me to keep writing - whether I'm in a good writing period or not. An answer that strengthens my belief in that writing stories has an immense potential in intruiging, inspiring and entertaining people, both writers and readers. This is such an answer. Thank you. – storbror Aug 3 '18 at 8:52
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I am thinking how can I create an effect in the story to make my readers constantly ask the question, how will this end?, like the novels I mentioned above.

The relevant concept here is that of the driving question. The driving question of your story is the one that readers expect to learn the answer to at the end, and is a bit more specific than just "How will this all end?" The driving question of Harry Potter is, "Will Harry fulfil his destiny and defeat Lord Voldemort?" The driving question of a romance novel is, "Will they get together at the end?" Depending on how your story is structured, there may be multiple different driving questions at different points.

Judging from your synopsis, the main driving question of your novel is, "Will the protagonist find her inner self?" As long as your readers continue to care about the answer to that question, they will continue to read your novel. The only advice I can give you on how to do that, is to make sure your story is well-written and your heroine is sympathetic and relatable. Beware the Eight Deadly Words: "I don't care what happens to these people." (Beware also TV Tropes, it's a massive time sink.)

I disagree that there will be no suspense in your novel. It obviously won't be as tense as a thriller novel like The Da Vinci Code, but there will still be the suspense of what the answer to the driving question will be. The trick to maintaining this suspense is to make sure that answer isn't totally obvious. There will be times where it looks like she'll succeed, and times where it looks like she'll fail, but only at the climax will she finally succeed or fail for good.

  • Thank you for the answer. I get a good line of thinking. – user30875 Aug 2 '18 at 18:54

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