The Power of the Unresolved Problem


Let’s assume you’ve grabbed sufficient attention by pulling the reader in, you’ve laid out what your theme or argument will be, and you’ve presented the tension between opposites that needs to be there in any successful story.

But what now?

Whatever you might think of Harry Potter or his creator J.K. Rowling, there’s no doubt that the Harry Potter series of books are page-turners (and best-sellers!) What is the key ingredient which makes them so?

You have to carry forward the emptiness.

What does that mean?

A problem is, by definition, one thing opposed by another. Ask yourself not only what the problem is, but why it is indeed a problem. A problem for whom? When did it first become a problem? What is at the root of the problem? The unanswered questions are what pull the reader on.

If you’re having trouble figuring this out, you need to go back to basics with your work.

An interesting piece of work must always have an unresolved problem at its core -that’s what makes it interesting.

That’s what your hero or heroine is there to do -figure out a solution, or, more often, BE a solution. There’s a whole field of study behind this (see the book