What happens next? It's such a simple question, but it's one that's so crucial to us when telling stories. The basic unit of the story is 'and then'. Without 'and then', there can never be more than a static situation. It can be beautifully described and elegant, the perfect character study, but if nothing happens, then it can only hold our interest so long.
Asking what happens next has a curious kind of power to it for a writer. We might not have a clue about our story or we might have every instant mapped out, we might have a focus on characters or plot lines, overarching themes or symbolism, yet always that question brings the focus back to the simple unit of what the reader is going to get through in the next little while. What happens next? Not a week from now, not in chapter seven, but next?
It can be great for focusing the mind. It can also be enough of a question to get through an entire rough draft. It's certainly the question you want your readers asking. How do you get them asking it? By asking it yourself. By creating situations in which you are compelled to ask it, and answer it, and keep on answering it. By never quite giving the answers that everyone else does. So go on, tell me, what happens next?