Monday, March 26, 2012

Page Turners

By Julie Daines

The Ten Commandments of Writing and When to Break Them
Writing Conferences. We go. We listen. We obey. Maybe sometimes we obey too much.

My next few posts will be about when to break the writing commandments.

Commandment #3
Thou Shalt Keep the Reader Wanting More

This is something I hear all the time, always keep the reader wanting more. And while that is true, many writers take it the wrong way. 

Here are some common pitfalls to avoid:

~Withholding information in an effort to create suspense. As a general rule, if your POV character knows something, so should the reader. 

When a reader cares about your MC and the stakes are high without being contrived, that's suspense. Withholding information just frustrates a reader.

~EVERY chapter does NOT need to end in a cliffhanger. This starts to feel contrived and tires the reader. When techniques get overused they become cliche. 

If you've done your job well, the reader will be invested enough in the story to want to read on to the next chapter. 

~Don't leave the reader hanging. This happens a lot in multiple POV stories. A writer will leave one character in mortal peril, then switch to another POV of a character in a less stressful situation, presumably to keep the reader in suspense.

Readers are not that patient, in the end, they will skip ahead to see what happens to the character they are invested in at the moment of peril. That is a bad thing and needs to be fixed.

You have to constantly ask yourself what will readers want, and then deliver. 

What are some other situations where writers take the need to have a page-turner the wrong way? 


Scott said...

I get irritated by false disasters at the ends of scenes, especially when used to create a cliffhanger. Like if a chapter ends with "Johnny slipped and fell into the abyss, tumbling as he fell to endless depths, wondering when he'd finally hit bottom." Then the next chapter starts with "Johnny woke up. He'd been dreaming. He wasn't really falling. He was home in his comfortable bed, surrounded by his favorite stuffed animals."

Danielle Paige said...

I may be wrong but I think that last one of leaving your reader hanging is ok, so long as you don't do it all the time or make the new pov tantalizingly boring.

Danielle Paige said...
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