The topic of this blog is one that has been a challenge for me and I’m sure for many others. How do you keep readers interested enough in your book to keep turning the pages.
When I wrote my first book, I tried to look at authors that kept me turning the pages of their books and reflected on the techniques they use. Three authors came to mind immediately. Harlan Coben, Stephen King and J.K. Rowling.
These three authors are very different and the techniques they use also differ quite a bit.
- Harlan Coben – If I had to sum up Coben’s page turning technique, I would say that short chapters are the key. He has this in common with James Patterson. His chapters are like potato chips. You try to stop, but you keep telling yourself “just one more” and before you know it, hours have passed and you’ve run out of pages. This is not true of all of Coben’s books, but is definitely true of his best, Tell No One. This book has you hooked from the beginning and is probably his best work. As a side note, I reached out to him on Twitter to compliment his books and ask him if I could interview him for my blog (worth a shot) and I was blocked from his account.
- Stephen King – He is known as the master of horror, but, in my mind, he is a master story teller. In many of his books, his characters are developed so richly that you turn the pages just to see what’s going to happen to them. King is also known for flashing forward just a bit. He may tip the reader off that a main character is going to meet a terrible end and you scratch your head because you can’t imagine this happening so you keep reading until it makes sense. I remember reading It and staying up nearly all night to finish it (with all the lights on).
- J.K. Rowling – If you want rich character development where you become fully invested in the author’s creations, you can’t beat the Harry Potter series and even her subsequent work, The Casual Vacancy. Rowling makes her characters living and breathing humans and you want to see how they turn out and what happens to them. Even Stephen King called her out as a master story teller and author.
The bottom line is that unanswered questions in the form of mystery and suspense keep your readers turning pages. Keeping them guessing and trying to figure out what happens next is a powerful tool when your goal is to hold their interest.
Reading can be an addiction. Your job as an author is to give the reader just enough with each page and each chapter so that they’ll keep coming back for more until they are hopefully satisfied by the end of the book or story.
These are just some of my observations on this topic. How about you? What techniques do you use to keep your readers interested?