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Teasing Your Work

Let’s Look at Teasing Your Work

Teasing is a subtle art. It is a lot like a fan dancer’s moves or a shy person’s come-on.

Teasing should feel like a movie trailer because that is exactly what movie trailers do.

Teasers are usually a bit longer than blurbs and are meant to generate excitement. They often end with a question, but they don’t have to. Think of how films are teased if you’re stumped for ideas.

She was spoiled, rich, and beautiful, until the Civil War ended it all.
Scarlett O’Hara has lost nearly everything.
But there’s a rich man who’s interested, and he might even love her.
Can she win Rhett Butler and save her beloved land, Tara?

Revealing Too Much

Don’t get too obvious! You do not do yourself any favors by spoiling your own book. Notice how the above teasing for Gone With The Wind does not go past maybe the middle of the film? And how it never mentions Ashley or Melanie Wilkes, the burning of Atlanta, or Scarlett’s first two husbands?

I deliberately left the teaser off at just about when the first big reel ends. It used to be, in the theater, Gone With The Wind would have an intermission, the film was so long. This teaser ends just about a minute after intermission ends.

In fact, this is at least part of how the actual film was edited. The book gives Scarlett two children before Bonnie—one each from her first two husbands. But Wade and Ella aren’t in the film.

Then again, they aren’t in the book that much, either.

Revealing Too Little

This is another problem. If I just said Scarlett was a wealthy woman living a life of luxury on the brink of the Civil War, that would feel a bit incomplete.

I can go a little further, plus adding Rhett Butler’s name to the teaser brings in the chief male character (he’s kind of a main character, but if I had to choose, the main character would be Scarlett). Marrying Rhett is one of Scarlett O’Hara’s main character drivers, whether it is to secure finances for her family or due to love on her part.

Bringing Rhett into the conversation means the listener or reader gets an even better idea about who Scarlett is, and what motivates her.

So, providing her motivation really cinches it.

The Bare Bones

We have something of a framework here. Of course, none of this is set in concrete. But these elements seem to matter the most.

  1. Mention the main character by name.
  2. Give brief background to orient the reader to time and place.
  3. Introduce the problem/conflict.
  4. Add one driver of the main character’s behavior.
  5. Wrap it up with tying the first, smaller driver to the most important driver of the main character’s behavior.

A Teasing Sample

To wit:

Alice is just plain bored, so she gets to daydreaming. When she sees a white rabbit wearing a waistcoat and carrying a pocket watch, it piques her interest.

She follows the rabbit when she hears it talk, and ends up in Wonderland. But Wonderland is odd, exasperating, and often downright confusing.

Can Alice get out of Wonderland with her sanity intact?

Here’s a Second Teasing Sample

Kansas is dreary and nothing ever seems to happen there. It’s a tough place for Dorothy, a girl with big dreams. When a twister drops her, her little dog, and her house into the land of Oz, things seem to be looking up.

But Oz has perils for both Dorothy and her dog, Toto. And Dorothy realizes she misses Kansas and her family after all.

Can Dorothy and Toto get back to Kansas and the people they love?

Practical Teasing Practice

Can you write a teaser for a classic work? Try it in the Comments section, and let’s see how you do!

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