Feedback from my writer's group tells me that my recent stories leave promises unfulfilled and important questions unanswered. So I've become interested in how stories make promises and raise questions.
So I've identified a few factors that arouse readers' expectations.
Character desire. If I put a desire into a character's mind (or words, or actions), readers expect the story to resolve the desire.
Character speculation. If a character speculates about some future event or condition, readers expect the story to resolve the speculation. This is especially true if the character feels some emotion about the speculation. Fear. Worry. Anticipation. Hope.
Character motivation. Readers expect that characters have reasons for their actions. Sometimes readers can readily imagine the reasons, either from their own experience or from something earlier in the story. If readers can't readily understand the reasons, that opens a question, which they expect the story to answer.
Cause and effect. Readers expect that effects have causes. If readers cannot readily imagine the causes of some important effect, that raises questions that they expect the story to answer.
Textual weight. If I spend time on something in the text, readers expect it to matter. The more space I give it, the more readers expect it to matter to the story. This is especially true in short fiction, where the mere mention of a thing must justify its presence in the story.
Genre. Each genre brings its own set of expectations. In a mystery, the crime will be resolved in the end. In a romance, the lovers will get together in the end.
What have I missed? What other features arouse expectations in readers?
When you are reading, what raises questions in you?
My goal is to give myself a better chance to notice when I've made a promise or raised a question that I will need to resolve.