The exact definition of a page-turner, according to Google? “An exciting book.”
Writing an exciting book isn’t an easy thing to do. Ideas run back-and-forth across our minds constantly. We know the end result, but not always how a character is supposed to get there. We get caught up in dialogue. We forget the significance of that line we scribbled in the margins. We get bored. We lose heart.
Anyone can write a page-turner, with practice. Here are three strategies to help get you on the right (and exciting!) literary track.
Keep things moving
A general rule: if you’re bored writing it, the reader will be just as bored reading it. It’s important to keep up an even mix of dialogue and action. A story should always progress, even if the scene only involves two people talking for a few pages.
If things start to slow down, skip ahead to the next “action sequence” (it doesn’t necessarily have to be a fight scene or anything, unless it actually has to be, then go for it). There are no laws that say you have to write a story in chronological order. Write the parts you are excited about and fill in the important, possibly less thrilling links later. You can always go back and connect missing links.
Add chapter cliffhangers
Cliffhangers don’t just hang out (ha ha) at the ends of stories. Think of your favorite T.V. show: one way they probably keep you tuning in from week to week is inserting that cliffhanger at the end of every episodes. The same goes for books: you can do it with chapters, too, as long as you don’t overdo it.
It can be as dramatic as an “I am your father” announcement (anyone?) or as calm as a character reflecting on an event, staring out a window. Stop the reader in the middle of the action to impose that infamous “inability to but this freaking book down” syndrome. Surprise! She’s not dead (or is she?).
Present more questions than answers … at first
The biggest mistake you can make writing a story is revealing the answers to questions too early. There’s also the downfall of not addressing enough questions, or even worse, failing to answer them all (behold, the plot hole). What keeps a reader reading? Needing to know who A is, for real (yes, they were books first).
One way of doing this is multiplying questions every time one of them gets answered. We know who did it, but why, and how, and when? Don’t answer everything all at once. And leave your reader a little room to guess without forgetting to tie up loose ends. Readers feel good when they solve mysteries before characters do, too. You know we do.
Writing an exciting book takes practice. It’s also a skill a writer will never cease to refine. Turning pages is a beautiful pastime, especially when you can’t stop.
Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.