Children's and Youth Literature Writer's and Reviewer's Guide/Storyline
Narrative tension and the suspense curve
"In broader definitions of suspense, this emotion arises when someone is aware of his lack of knowledge about the development of a meaningful event; thus, suspense is a combination of anticipation and uncertainty dealing with the obscurity of the future. In terms of narrative expectations, it may be contrasted with mystery or curiosity and surprise." (Wikipedia)
Suspense without uncertainty
- Suspense#Zeigarnik effect (Wikipedia)
Linear and non-linear narrative structures
Antagonists and protagonists?
Antagonists and protagonists are a means to produce narrative tension by making the reader biased. Especially literature for children and adolescents can, however, help to make the reader unbiased, which could be seen as an inversion in the design of a novel that may frequently escape an author's attention.
The concepts of antagonist and protagonist may have their place in the design of a novel, but maybe they should be secondary to realism and educational considerations. An antagonist or protagonist may, of course, still have its use as a superficial villain or hero that is easily revealed by the reader as superficial. Changing antagonists and protagonists can also contribute to more realism and motivation for the reader to reconsider his biases. The reader should in any case be able to recognize psychological and sociological effects beyond the simplified antagonist/protagonist structure.
Education vs. requirements of storytelling and entertainment
Additional layers of complexity
Following the maxim "the world is not enough" a story can have further layers of complexity, which can allow readers to form expectations and theories and develop models about the ambiguities between differing and possibly contradictory presentations and notions. Layers of complexity can also be added with elaborate descriptions of psychology and personality or philosophies and idiocultures. In fictional worlds alternate explanations based on different philosophies can have unexpected influences on the realities of the fictional worlds, for instance karma could have effects that are subjectively confirmed by some characters but are not confirmed by others, leaving the reader with the ambiguity of either possibility.
In a fictional world subtle supernatural phenomena can also add layers of complexity. For instance a head teacher, who should be sending pupils to detention, but sends them onto an excursion instead and even sends them to a place they were normally not allowed to visit (This is an allusion to a visit in the forbidden forest as a replacement for detention in one of the Harry Potter novels.) Is there a supernatural force that reverses aspects of thoughts into their opposites, or is that a cognitive bias, possibly similar to the coriolis effect? A possible philosophy under the circumstances might reject being subjected to such effects, while others might reject the notion that the effect could exist. Other philosophies could include the views that people had a right to know about possible phenomena or that effects of such phenomena should generally be rejected and kept at a minimum for all people.
Another subtle supernatural phenomenon could be an ability to hear or to talk (without thinking) about what others are thinking, without anything being mentioned. (This could for instance be seen as an allusion to the movie What Women Want) Why should that be possible? What would follow? Does the effect actually exist or is it a combination of misperception, prejudice and psychological effect? The effect adds a layer of complexity if observers remain in an ethical and logical dilemma whether the information supposedly gained means anything at all and if it can morally be made use of (and for what purposes).
The attempt to use supernatural phenomena could also be explained to deplete a supernatural resource with mostly unknown effects, which would for instance provide a motivation for environmentalism in a storyline that may otherwise not have any use for it. Of course, some characters might reject the notion that the depletion effect could exist or might explain it with psychological effects. (e.g.: Can respect as a resource be depleted?)