Chains Of Problems And Promises

The solution to one question, you notice, leads to the next question. This forms an interlocking chain of problems. The novelist Manuel Komroff chose another name for this: He called it an interlocking chain of promises, because each problem or question that you put before the reader implicitly promises a solution, an answer, something intriguing and exciting to lure the reader onward. Like a Western sheriff following an outlaw's trail, the reader will hunt from one problem to the next, eager to find each answer.

So you keep offering problems, asking questions, all through the story. And you never answer any question until you have raised at least one or two more, to be answered a few pages farther on. This keeps the reader turning pages anxiously, breathless to find out what happens next.

Once Kinsman finds Father Lemoyne, more problems confront him. Is the priest so near death that it would be pointless to try to rescue him? Would a rescue attempt work? Would it kill Kinsman himself? And then comes the most shocking problem of all: Father Lemoyne apparently knows about Kinsman's guilty secret. If Kinsman saves him, the priest may well reveal his secret to everyone. Kinsman will be disgraced, forced to quit his life as an astronaut, hounded by the news media, tortured in public wherever he goes.

This is where we see what the protagonist is made of. Everything in the story points to the conclusion that Kinsman would be far better off to leave the priest in the wilderness to die. That is, if Kinsman makes a choice that we would consider to be morally wrong, it would be to his advantage. On the other hand, if he makes the morally correct choice and tries to save the priest, it can only result in Kinsman's downfall.

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