They say revenge is sweet. Indeed it is! I love watching my favorite character on a TV show finally beat the villain, and nothing makes me happier when I'm reading a good book than the part where the antagonist gets what's coming to them. Ah....sweet, sweet payback. It can be big or small, but it's always supposed to be meaningful to both the character and the reader.
Payback is what makes a reader want to check out more of your writing, too!
A great example I saw of this that actually made me snicker and clap my hands at the same time was on a recent episode of American Horror Story.*** Small Spoiler Alert here for those who haven't caught up yet.*** One of the characters, Lana, had been wrongfully locked up in an insane asylum, but she managed to escape with the help of her shrink--who then turns out to be a serial killer, and there are so many close calls where you think she might get free. Eventually, she escapes back to the asylum, thinking she'll be safer there. No such luck. The shrink shows up and plays all sorts of mind games with her. At one point she manages to tape a confession from him without his knowing. But the best moment is when Lana, with the help of a nun, sneaks out of the asylum unbeknownst to her evil shrink. As he realizes she is gone, he sprints to the asylum doors to stop her, but he's too late. She's getting in a taxi and is safe.
But as the taxi begins to drive away, the two characters stare at each other. It's a tense moment. Will she back down? Is he going to rip open the door before the taxi can leave? Nope! Lana slowly raises her hand and flips him the bird. The look on her face says it all: Payback is coming now that I'm free and can expose you to the world.
And later that night (I won't tell you how) our heroine gets some awesome payback.
I love moments like that. We've been with a character through all their trials and tribulations. We know them, their hopes, dreams, and fears. As a reader, we desperately hope they get their revenge or find some way out of the situation.
Payback is a great writing tool. This is when you give that loyal fan everything (or almost everything) they've wanted. Believe me! The reader gets cranky when they don't get it.
Check out your own writing. Do you have a payback moment? Do you need it? Make sure the reader is going to be satisifed to some extent in the end or else you might not see them again.