Have you noticed some of the books you pick up, you can’t put down. I have stayed up until 3:00-4:00 in the morning finishing a book, because I had to know how it ended. I’ve changed my plans for the day, because I couldn’t stop reading. That’s the kind of book I want to write.
There’s a writer I’ve followed on scribophile, who is way beyond most of the other aspiring authors on the site. My biggest frustration with her, is she doesn’t post her work fast enough, and I have to wait to see what happens next. She is great at building suspense and ending a chapter right before the climax. You have to read the next chapter to find out what happened. Or, she will dangle a little carrot in front of you and lead you by the nose. Pair this with charming characters, and you have a winner.
So, what tools are available to a writer trying to hold their reader hostage?
- Surprise-Curiosity kills the cat and your reader. What on your first page is the reader not expecting to see? What is your hook?
- Mystery-The thing about curiosity is that the reader doesn’t know what’s going on; what’s going to happen next. That’s why they have to keep reading.
- Conflict-Your reader isn’t looking for a perfect world filled with love, joy, and peace. That may be your ultimate goal and resolution, but it had better be a little rocky along the way. What on your first page sets up conflict?
- Charm-Your reader has to like your characters and be drawn into their world. Those characters are like family, and it matters what happens to them.
- Resonance-The reader has to be able to relate to what’s going on. Your writing should evoke or suggest images, memories, and emotions.
When you read that next great novel, think about why you can’t put it down. What is the author doing to keep you hooked. Are they using conflict, mystery, or maybe throwing in a couple surprises to pique your interest?
Hope this got you thinking. Make your novel inescapable.