Wednesday, May 29, 2013

What makes a page-turner?

I’ve received a lot of comments/reviews where someone has said they’ve started one of my book and then couldn’t put it down. It’s great to read those comments because that’s really what I’m aiming for in my stories. I consider myself first and foremost a storyteller!
Here are a few of those comments:
I was taken in by the first chapter and it was hard to put my Kindle down until I'd finished reading the entire novel! (His Leading Lady)
It's a page turner with a secret hanging over the couple's relationship that you knew at some point would drop on top them and wreak havoc. (Fragrance of Violets)
It was again hard for me to stop reading this story. I kept wanting to take another peak at the next chapter until in the end I surrendered to the story and finished the whole thing. (Changing the Future)
Paula has a great style which gets you hooked from the first page and does not allow you to take any break until you reach the last page (Her Only Option)
I read it over 3 nights, because I could not put it down once I had started and ended up burning the midnight oil for 3 nights (Dream of Paris – this was in a handwritten letter from someone I mailed the book to)

You suck your reader into the story and each page pulls you in further. Page turners and sleep robbers, that is what you give us, Miss Paula!
So it seems I have created page-turners, so this got me wondering what it is about my books that makes people want to keep turning the pages.
I like to think (hope!) that my readers become invested in my characters and want to find out more about them. It’s also occurred to me that what I was doing (almost unconsciously) was what the soap operas do here in the UK (and I assume in other places too). They usually end each episode with a cliffhanger – a sudden appearance of a new character who threatens to throw the other characters into chaos, a conflict or problem that is introduced or only partway solved, a moment of despair when you wonder how the character is going to cope with whatever life has thrown at him/her. Soap operas episodes rarely end with something happy occurring. They end with situations that raise a big question mark in the viewers’ minds. What’s going to happen next? How will this affect someone? That’s because they want the viewers to tune in to the next episode.
The same applies to our stories. If we end chapters with something neatly rounded off, or worse still, the hero or heroine switching off the light and going to sleep, the bedtime readers will probably do the same. We need to ensure our readers need to find out happens next.
The basic message seems to be 'Keep up the tension' and ‘End each chapter with a bang, not a whimper’! Ask a question, foreshadow something that is going to happen (without giving it away), end a chapter with a dramatic moment for one or more of the characters. Watch the soaps and try to end your chapters in a similar way that will make your readers want to carry on reading – even though it might be midnight! 


  1. Wonderful reviews and comments, Paula!

  2. Paula, every time I end a chapter, I keep you in mind!

  3. Those cliffhangers are really important. I try to end each of my chapters with a 'hook' that makes the reader want to keep reading rather than putting the book away.

    Obviously, based on the reviews/comments, you've mastered that talent!

  4. Thanks, Ana! I always feel thrilled when someone writes or tells me they couldn't stop reading!

    LOL, Jen - I can't claim every chapter ending as a cliffhanger, but I do try to end with something that will make the reader want to find out more!

    Hook is a better word than cliffhanger, Debra - the big question mark (not necessarily literally!) at the end of the chapter. I do it almost automatically now, I think.

  5. I know you loved those wonderful comments, Paula.
    Active verbs, good dialogue, bigger than life characters and an unpredictable plot contribute to a page turner. Getting all this done takes effort and persistence. I know your success with your page turners took a lot of hard work on your part.

  6. Great advice for keeping the pages turning. I'll have to remember it as I write.

  7. Sarah, I love it when people can't put my books down - and even more when they tell me about it!

  8. Glad you found it useful, Loni :-)