How many times have you read a book that just made you go “wow”? I am talking about books (or stories) that make you wow from the beginning until the end, it had you hooked in a way you can’t explain. That is every writer’s dream: to have the ability to capture a reader’s attention, to possess the skill to keep readers invested beyond the very last page.
As renowned writer, Alice Munro rightly puts it, “I want to tell a story, in the old-fashioned way–what happens to somebody–but I want that ‘what happens’ to be delivered with quite a bit of interruption, turnarounds, and strangeness. I want the reader to feel something is astonishing–not the ‘what happens’ but the way everything happens.”
Writing stories is not only about having exceptional writing skills. One needs to be extremely creative and imaginative in order to put together an interesting story and engage all the senses.
Are you in the midst of writing a story and wondering how you can have the same impact on your readers? Here are 6 tips to help you write a page-turner –
Start with a Bang
The first few lines of your story can make all the difference. They can either compel the reader to read further or just put it aside.
There are various ways to begin your story – by introducing a fascinating character, describing an unusual setting or starting off with a gripping action scene. Regardless of the route you choose, the idea is to evoke strong emotions to captivate your readers and leave them yearning for more.
Develop Believable Characters
Your characters are an integral element of your story – they are what drive the plot forward. Developing believable and well-rounded characters are bound to draw people in and keep them engrossed.
It does not matter if the protagonist of your story is a superhero or vampire, what’s important is how relatable you make them by throwing light on their backstory, developing their journey and letting readers understand their motivations, flaws and desires.
The key is to drive readers to get emotionally involved with your characters.
Every action has a reaction and it is only logical for your story to follow suit too.
Hence, for every action you introduce in the story, you need to show the consequence it has on the characters and the plot. When you fail to do that, it causes confusion and interrupts the flow which tends to disengage readers.
It does not have to start with a cause and lead to an effect. The reverse also works fine when you start with an effect and then tell readers what caused it.
Create Conflict and Tension
To Kill a Mockingbird would not be so wildly popular, if author Harper Lee did not introduce the main conflict that involved Bob Ewell accusing Tom Robinson of raping his daughter, Mayella; and Atticus deciding to represent Tom and to argue his case.
Conflict and tension induce drama, which hooks readers and keeps them interested in the story. Conflicts are what make the story move forward while unraveling different aspects of the characters and contributing to their evolution.
You can play with two types of conflicts:
- External conflict: refers to conscious wants and desires
- Internal conflict: this often occurs at a subconscious level.
Show, Don’t Tell
“Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” – Anton Chekhov
This might be the oldest piece of advice to writers but still holds relevant today. It encourages writers to use descriptive language to evoke emotions and deliver compelling stories.
When you ‘tell’, you do the work of informing the reader about the happenings but when you ‘show’, you paint a vivid picture in their minds which makes for a far more immersive reading experience.
However, that does not mean you go about describing every sentence. The trick is to know when to show and when to tell such that it heightens your story.
Action refers to anything and everything that takes place in a story which evokes a reaction in the reader. A story without action is flat and uninteresting.
You can use a good balance of major and mid-dialogue actions to keep your story moving. Major actions are usually turning events that change the course of your story while mid-dialogue ones are those that occur throughout the story, leading to the major action.
Remember – the action you include needs to add value to the story and tighten the plot.
A writer and artist, Adela Belin is passionate about sharing stories with a hope to make a difference in people’s lives and contribute to their personal and professional growth.