The readers of my #suspense/thriller, #THE POISON CUP, tell me it’s a page-turner; they couldn’t put it down. They stayed up late to finish it. I’ll share some pointers about writing a page-turner.
- Problems create #TENSION
- Tension creates QUESTIONS in the mind of the reader
- Questions #HOOK the reader’s curiosity
While desire is the thread that holds the story together and propels the protagonist forward to the end, problems create tension, which promotes worry and curiosity on the part of the reader and keeps him hooked to the end. The opening one or two paragraphs may only hint at the problem, but without planting that seed of conflict, the potential reader will put your book down and look for one that immediately provokes questions and curiosity. From then on, you can’t drop the ball. You must create tension in every scene, on every page.
One of my favorite opening paragraphs is in David Baldacci’s Divine Justice. It begins like a short encyclopedia entry on the Chesapeake Bay—until the last sentence: “The bay is indeed a creation of remarkable beauty, except when you happen to be swimming in the middle of the damn thing during a thunderstorm in the veiled darkness of early morning.”
It has tension! He extols the impressiveness and beauty of the bay and then switches gears abruptly with “the damn thing.” We are taken aback by the sudden contrast. We learn quickly that the narrator is in an ocean of trouble and we want to know why.
Have you ever sat in a restaurant when the person in the booth behind you was loudly expounding on his favorite topic, himself? Did you roll your eyes and wonder why some people feel the need to be a bore so publicly? If on the other hand, a man and his wife are having an argument soto voce, admit it, you strain your ears to eavesdrop because problems create tension and tension arouses questions that hook our curiosity.
One way to keep the reader intrigued and turning pages is to let your characters speculate about what’s happening in the plot. Your characters are often in the dark as much as the reader, but in your story, your reader doesn’t know the difference. In everyday life, we speculate constantly. We have few facts to go on, so we imagine them when much of what we surmise is usually 95 per cent off center. Your characters’ speculations, gossip, and rumors can be red herrings, clues that mislead to keep the reader guessing and turning pages to find answers.