Writing a Page Turner – Part 2

Most of the early readers of Post Traumatic Stress have called it a real page turner. Page turners are good. They’re fun to read. It’s a great complement from your readers.

But most of all, page turners sell.

People enjoy books that they don’t want to put down. And – here’s the real magic – page turners make them want to buy the sequel, too. This is how binge readers are born, and binge readers are where the money is.

One thing to keep in mind is that no one of these techniques is essential. You can write page turning novels by breaking any (and maybe even all) of these “rules.” This is just one approach, but it’s an approach that works pretty well.

Believe it or not, the “page turner” aspect of Post Traumatic Stress is mostly intentional. It’s technique that you can learn, and today I want to teach some of that to you.

Yesterday I mentioned that chapters are a key element of page turners. This should be pretty obvious. After all, chapters form one of the foundational building blocks of any novel. We’ve already discussed that short chapters can be helpful. Today, we’ll move on to a second chapter-related technique.

Secret #2 – End Each Chapter On A Hook

Having short chapters helps keep someone from deciding not to read the next one. But you also want to hit them on the other side. Give your readers a reason to keep reading.

The best way to do this is with a “hook” at the end of each chapter. A good hook consists of the following elements:

  • A hint of what’s coming next. Think about what’s next for the characters in the chapter you just finished. Provide a taste – but just a taste – of that, right at the end of the chapter.
  • A little bit of mystery. Don’t tell them everything. People like mysteries (indeed, its one of the better selling fiction genres).
  • A touch of danger, scandal, or intrigue. There’s a reason cliffhangers are called cliffhangers. You want to get the adrenaline going a bit here. In an action or horror oriented story, this can be easy. Just provide a bit of a hint about the next opponent your heroes will face. But you can pull this off in a drama just as well. Think more of obstacles rather than opponents, and give a clue about what challenge is coming next.
  • Make sure each challenge is successively harder than the previous one. That’s how you keep ramping up the intensity. Don’t blow all your big guns early. Save them for the climax.

Here are a few examples of final sentences from chapters of Post Traumatic Stress.

  • Then the dream came again. Note that at this point in the book, one nightmare has already been vividly recounted for the reader. That leaves a good impression that the dream coming is bad. This sentence leaves unresolved tension. The reader doesn’t want to end here, because it’s not a good feeling. He wants to keep reading until he can release that tension. Of course, you’re not going to let that happen.
  • “Heya, Mikey!” His nose glowed yellow as he growled, “can I come in and play?” This is an example of moving the first line of the next chapter to be the ending of the current chapter. A “new” opponent arrives. In this case, he’s actually already known to the hero, which increases the tension. The next chapter begins the true altercation.
  • But tonight he’d have to deal with something far worse: politicians, lawyers, and bureaucrats. This ending takes the dramatic route rather than foreshadowing action. Note that the previous paragraph gives a quick recap of life challenges the protagonist has already faced – rather serious challenges. This single sentence accomplishes several things at once. It provides a tantalizing hint of what’s coming next. The reader gets just a taste of scandal thanks to the job descriptions. It provides a character point – our hero clearly doesn’t like dealing with these kinds of people. It’s highly relatable – most of the rest of us don’t like it, either. And it’s a little funny. We all know that those things aren’t actually worse than fighting in a war (one of the challenges listed in the recap; our hero is an ex-soldier).
  • The lights went out. Then all hell broke loose. This one, on the other hand, is very action oriented. The chapter that follows is one of the truly major action set pieces of the book. In this case, it’s also pretty unexpected. The prior scene has built a decent amount of dramatic tension in a very different direction. Now, bam, the reader gets hit from the other side with physical tension. Standing on its own, this line seems moderately interesting. Together with the misdirection, it’s far more effective.

Bonus tip: One easy way to end your chapter on a hook is to take the first sentence of your next chapter and move it to the end of your current chapter.

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