Keeping Your Readers Turning the Pages


Turning pages.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. tell no one
  • 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).IT
  • 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.TheCasualVacancy

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?

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30 thoughts on “Keeping Your Readers Turning the Pages

  1. You chose some really talented authors, Don. I think part of the secret for keeping readers engaged is a realistic, compelling story line. And that means things like making a mistake in an investigation, or having believable surprises pop up. But I also couldn’t agree more that character development is essential. People want to read about 1) what happens to the characters; and, 2) what they do about it. And that involves both plot and character development.

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    • Thanks for weighing in, Margot. Stephen King, in particular, is great at creating multi-dimensional characters with noble intentions that are often deeply flawed. After reading his great book, “On Writing”, I can see where he is likely drawing on his own personality in many cases.

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  2. Don, I normally write long chapters, but occasionally I force myself to throw in a few shorter chapters. So, for unknown reason, I personally don’t like short chapters when reading. They interrupt my focus and suspension of disbelief. They take me out of the story. I like long sentences too. I guess I am just weird. Of course, it does depend on whether of not the story is a mystery where shorter chapters are key to the suspense. All novels are in someway…suspense stories, we want to find out what will happen next. Maybe now, I will start writing shorter chapters. Thank you for a very information post!

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  3. I love Stephen King’s early writing (the more recent stuff not so much) and I have studied those books of his that I love a great deal. Re-reading them many times to absorb how he writes. I try to learn from him and also from other authors I admire. Any book I read I will learn from, positively or negatively. JK Rowling is a great writer but she is Harry Potter to me and I won’t read anything else she writes. Sorry, but that is how it is, she wrote herself into a corner for me with that series.

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  4. I can’t believe you were blocked from an account on Twitter just for asking for an interview! Doesn’t say much for the author.
    I like short chapters as a reader, so I incorporated that into my writing. There’s nothing worse than being too tired/busy to finish reading a scene!

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  5. Pingback: Author Inspiration and This Week’s Writing Links – Staci Troilo

  6. Writing for kids, I do need to keep my chapters short. I also throw in some cliff hangers at the end of some, not all, chapters. The young readers tell me they like that. I too don’t have the time or patience anymore for long chapters in the adult books I read.

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