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One of the suggested topics for NJAN panel/Q&As for next year is 'Creating Page Turners'. At first glance, this might seem like it only applies to thrillers or action/adventure novels, but when you think about it, every book we write should aspire to be considered as some form of page turner. After all, we all hope to draw our readers far enough into our books so they want to find out what happens next, don't we?

Page turners come in all manner of different shapes and sizes. From the obvious nail-biters, 'Oh my gosh, I just have to find out if they get away from that exploding giraffe!'; 'Will he get away with it?' affair, to the more subtle 'Will they/won't they?' storyline.

In fact, making your book a page turner is probably more important if it's not the kind of story which features thrilling car chases and protaganists running for their lives ie: the 'How will that dark cloud on the horizon affect these characters, who I've come to know and care for?' category, or in the case of non-fiction, 'This isn't a subject I was remotely interested in, but I can't believe how fascinating it is.'
Especially when you consider how we need to impress the jaded palettes of potential agents and editors, who are, after all, the most important people with their thumbs on the actual pages (at least for those of us aiming for traditional publication).

So how can we achieve that goal?

I don't think there's a magical answer, but the first step is surely to recognize it needs achieving.

The more our readers care about our characters, the more invested they'll become in finding out what happens to them. That doesn't mean they have to be in constant peril, far from it, but if all we do is give our protags problems, without taking care to ensure the readers care about whether or not they overcome them, we're probably not going to end up with as good a novel as we might like. My own advice then, would be to work on making our characters more empatheticable...ness, if you know what I mean, so readers will relate to them and their situations.  

How about you?

What do you think writers should do to create a page turner?

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( 21 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 15th, 2011 04:19 pm (UTC)
Just from stuff that I've read, what tends to keep me fascinated include:

1. Strong, clear, well defined personalities. (Which tends to mean that there's conflict with other characters. Generally, a strong personality is not going to get along with everyone.)

2. Conflict in general. It's boring if everyone is getting along and everything works out, all the time.

3. A unique perspective, setting, or plot line. I'm getting jaded as I age.

4. Easy to read writing. For better or worse, if I have to re-read anything (or look up a word online/in a dictionary), I'm pulled from the narrative and find the story less engrossing.

5. A plot that keeps going. While this doesn't need to include zombie explosions every second, there needs to be a sense of urgency about something - enough so that the character's aren't spending hours either gazing at the stars or internal monologing or drinking coffee. A bit of any is okay. But too much makes me think that the character's more of a whiner than a doer.

6. A minimum of exposition/description. I like both, when used carefully. But every time I see a big block of either, I tend to either skim (if it really is a page turner) or set down the book for a little.
Dec. 15th, 2011 05:11 pm (UTC)
Interesting. I'm with you on the minimum of exposition/description thing.

Thanks for sharing :)
Dec. 15th, 2011 04:50 pm (UTC)
I wish I had a good answer to your question. I'd be rich, RICH!
Dec. 15th, 2011 05:11 pm (UTC)
Lol, you and me both, Peadar :)
Dec. 15th, 2011 05:58 pm (UTC)
I think we as writers have to think about what we like as readers. What keeps us interested in a story?

For me, it's having characters I care about. The most exciting plot in the world isn't going to make me want to turn the pages if I don't care about the characters it is happening to.

And that doesn't have to be care about in a positive way. It could be a character you love to hate, and you turn the pages to see if he gets his just desserts.

Therefore I always try to write characters that will make the reader care. I put them in situations where there is tension and where there is doubt that they will make it through okay, so the reader has to keep on reading to find out if they're going to be alright in the end.
Dec. 15th, 2011 08:37 pm (UTC)
'I think we as writers have to think about what we like as readers.

Absolutely :)
Dec. 15th, 2011 06:22 pm (UTC)
Make your readers care about your characters, and no matter what the ups or downs, they're pulled along for the ride.
Dec. 15th, 2011 08:39 pm (UTC)
I guess the question then becomes: How do we make them care?

Once we can answer that, we've cracked it - or at least that part of the writing thing :)
Dec. 15th, 2011 06:39 pm (UTC)
Make readers care about your characters AND tension in the plot.
Dec. 15th, 2011 08:40 pm (UTC)
For sure :)
Dec. 15th, 2011 07:55 pm (UTC)
I think conflict is the key.
Dec. 15th, 2011 08:42 pm (UTC)
Certainly. mind you, I don't think conflict alone will do it.
Dec. 15th, 2011 08:44 pm (UTC)
I agree. Characters have to be, not necessarily likable, but interesting and somewhat relate-able. And not too stupid preferably. If all the conflict comes from idiotic decisions and they never learn, I will quit reading.
Dec. 15th, 2011 09:56 pm (UTC)
Lol, including silly girls who take a candle up to spooky attics to investigate strange noises during power outages, right? :)
Dec. 15th, 2011 10:37 pm (UTC)
Only if they're alone. Or baseball bat-less. ;)

I'll forgive it the first time. If they do it again, without even a thought to previous experiences - then I lose all patience.

Dec. 16th, 2011 11:10 am (UTC)
As a reader (and a self-professed character junkie) it comes down to people I get interested in, having, making and living with choices they care about - they don't have to be vital or exciting choices (some of the best stories I've read revolved around seemingly tiny things) but they have to matter to them. Then they matter to me - and I keep reading to find out about them.
Dec. 16th, 2011 10:53 pm (UTC)
'...it comes down to people I get interested in'

I agree completely :)
Dec. 16th, 2011 06:53 pm (UTC)
Don't be boring.


I mean it. I really do. Logic and continuity have their points, but so does characterization. Different characters, diversification, can lead to conflicts of different kinds, such as ideas and the like. If your characters all read the same, it's going to be boring, in the longer run. Every comedian has a straight man, every dutiful child has a prodigal scion. We have friends we wouldn't touch with a ten-foot pole now, but in high school, or elementary school, our opinion may have been quite different, and maybe your parental unit or two were not particularly fond of said friend, either.

You need conflict, and you need to make it interesting. You can't just have an argument for argument's sake. It needs to be part of your story. If the conflict isn't the major one, between protagonist and antagonist, it can be between two friends, with very different ideas. Oh, and said argument should have something to do wit the story proper too, if only as a display of characterization, given the situation.

And what am I doing, writing this wall of text before next week, when I have my glasses proper, instead of letting my eyes rest, I shall never know. Especially given my refusal to use such inane monstrosities as an "auto-correct" function. I like the correction "hints" where they underline possible typos, but I don't like being hit over the head with a sledgehammer when I try to write such words as "pulmonary", which no spell checking device appears to recognize as a viable word.
Dec. 16th, 2011 10:58 pm (UTC)
Thanks for taking the time to give such a detailed response :)
Dec. 16th, 2011 11:30 pm (UTC)
It's just the first thing that popped into my head when I read, so... Is it really al that detailed? I hadn't noticed. >=}
Dec. 17th, 2011 09:20 am (UTC)
Detailed in a good way :)
( 21 comments — Leave a comment )

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