Readers always want to read page turners. Writers always want to write them. There is a way to make everything you write a page turner. But, you have to setup a few things first.
Some writers like to outline their work. Others like to shoot from the hip and discover the story as they go. Either way works, but you should at least have an ending in mind.
Personally, I like to outline my work first. I don’t write a formal outline. I simply write some key events down as I think about which way I want the story to go. I keep a “Notes” document as I begin brainstorming and even while I’m writing.
My notes are for a general outline that builds while I’m thinking the story through. It’s also where I keep details like quotes and points that I want to make. It’s a good reference that keeps me on track while I’m writing.
The main storyline is the backbone of your novel. But, you need to work into that several secondary storylines that push the story forward. Some people go overboard. But there really isn’t any measure, so it’s hard to get it just right. You have to tweak it to your taste.
Let’s begin with a simple idea for a novel and see what we can build. We have a male protagonist who is trying to get a new high school stadium built in his hometown. He thinks it will bring his warring community together.
So, that’s the basic premise of the story. If it were that easy, he would have a fundraiser and petition the city to match funds. Story is over right?
Well, let’s put some obstacles in his way that make it harder for him to achieve his goals:
– The antagonist holds a secret meeting and launches a scheme to derail the plan to build the new stadium.
– The protagonist’s girlfriend has a deep, dark secret she’s afraid to tell anyone. It could affect the outcome of the story.
– A survey of the land concludes that the selected site does not belong to the city. It actually belongs to an elderly lady in a nursing home who has assigned Power of Attorney to a very greedy family member.
That might actually be a fun story to write. Have fun with it if you feel motivated. Moving forward, those three subplots add drama to the story that make it hard for the protagonist to achieve his goals.
\When you look at each one of the subplots, you should outline the key points of those as well. If you have each subplot outlined from event to event, it makes it easier to see where the secondary storylines best fit in the overall story. Writing the subplots into the overall story becomes a game of putting a puzzle together.
That’s when you start to do your magic. It’s not about asking questions. It’s about leaving questions. Asking a question is ineffective because it’s a simple matter of stating something you want the reader to wonder. For instance, what do you think the big secret is? What is the antagonist going to do next?
Asking a question jerks the reader out of the book. It can make them stop turning pages. In fact, it can quite possibly lose them altogether.
Leaving a question is a technique that brings the reader to wonder. To make the reader keep turning pages, simply leave the question at the end of a section or a chapter. Just when your readers think they are going to be able to put the book down and watch a show or go to bed, you give them something they have to know right now.
– Tom was looking forward to the fundraiser, but little did he know that Tammy had an entirely different idea in mind.
– Tom noticed Amy was acting differently lately, if only he knew what was bothering her so much.
– When Lisa learned her grandmother owned the property where Tom planned to build the new stadium, she started to get some ideas of her own.
There are many ways to be unique in your use of leaving the question. Coming up with more advanced ways of taking the reader from page to page is the fun of writing. Write those questions over and over making each revision better than the one before, your next novel will definitely be a page turner.
About the Post Author:
I was born in Cedar Rapids, Ia. But, I was shortly moved to the Washington, D.C. area where I eventually ended up graduating from James Monroe High School in Fredericksburg, VA.
I went into the Marine Corps in 1988 and was discharged in 1993. I put myself through college and became an English major. But, I always had a thing about writing.
I had been writing since I was six. I used to write poems and short stories. I had always been trying to pen a novel, but was finally contracted by a publisher to write about new urbanism. The book was never published because the owner of the publishing company fell ill before putting it into print.
But, that launched my professional writing career. I’ve been writing books and screenplays ever since.
Michael Allen Social Media Links