One of the best parts of reading short stories is the anticipation. Admit it! When you open the first page (or turn on your Kindle or Nook) aren’t you looking forward to what you might learn, about yourself and others, from the story’s characters and their adventures and mishaps? What does anticipation feel like to you? For me, it’s a quickening of my heartbeat, a sharp intake of breath, or a lightness in my step. Emotionally, it’s a feeling of hope, of optimism, of barely suppressed excitement and, ultimately, a quiet sense of peace and satisfaction.
To write the kind of stories that give your readers a sense of anticipation, you have to allow yourself to experience it firsthand so you understand how it can build and reward you with its pleasurable sensations. Those of us who live in the land of four seasons will find this easy because each season brings new delights for us to anticipate. Take spring, for example. Each day as I walk around Trumansburg or drive to Ithaca or Rochester, I see signs of good things to come. When the winter fences and blockades come down from around the Rim Trail I shout “Yes!” and pump my fist in the air. I’m already anticipating how wonderful it will feel, physically and mentally, to resume my long hikes there and how my muscles and mind will soon become flexible again with my regular tromps through the woods.
When I see farmers plowing their fields, I lick my lips lightly, already savoring the taste of just-picked strawberries, cherry tomatoes off the vine, and corn-on-the-cob. When I see campers appear at Taughannock and Sampson State Parks, a smile comes to my face as a vision of my tent, with me in it, and images of past camping trips fill my mind. I’m anticipating long days at the ocean or the pond, nights filled with s’mores and campfires, and strolling through Provincetown. I usually wonder how I will be ever be able to wait three more months until I can get in my car and head east!
Not every story you write will be happy or jubilant. Nor will everything you anticipate be as good as you hope. But looking forward to things is an important part of a well-balanced life and a little bit of this goes a long way toward making your world a more colorful one. Try adding a little anticipation to your stories and your own daily existence and you might be amazed at the results!