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Tuesday, 18 June 2013

How To Keep Your Readers Hooked.

Last week I blogged about writing the first chapter and how that was the hardest job of all. I had many fellow writers agree with me and I also had those who did not.

Those writers pointed out that writing the rest of the book can be harder, and from that point I do agree with them.

Here's what I mean ...

When you write the first chapter you are making a promise to your reader. You're saying to them that your book will keep them entertained, enthralled and on the edge of their seat. You're setting a style and tone to your writing that you must keep up during the rest of the book. And sometimes that can be a very tricky thing to do.

All successful stories must have an element of suspense. No matter what the style of writing is like, whether you write in first or third person, you must write with suspense as your goal to keep your readers turning those pages.

I've read a couple of books lately that I've been disappointed with. I've been drawn to their plotlines because the blurb sounded interesting but when I've read the book, I've been waiting for a turn or a twist or for something to actually happen. But nothing does. All I get is a very flat story and then I question why I've bothered to waste my time reading it.

If I had bought the book I would have been very disappointed indeed but because I've just got them out of the library it's not been too bad.

But those books illustrate my point perfectly. A plotline just isn't enough. You have to make it interesting. And how do you do such a thing?

You have to add a huge dollop of conflict and suspense. Make your characters have the worst possible lives because a happy, smooth life is lethal in fiction. And keep your reader guessing what happens next. Too many storylines are predictable and predictable equals boring. If your reader already knows what's going to happen at the end then why should they bother to keep on reading?

Tell me how do you make sure your reader is hooked on your book?


  1. I am not sure I agree with you completely. I absolutely hate predictability, but I am not sure the first chapter of a book has to keep the reader on the edge of their seat, or even enthralled. I'd say...entertained and interested enough to get to the next chapter. It's kind of like that first date. There were a couple of times the first date did not completely produce firework, but dates two and three got much better, and by date four I was hooked. Like chapters in a book:)

  2. Interesting point you make there Heather. However you write your first chapter it has to contain something that will make the reader want to read on further. Like you say it's like a first date. There has to be a spark in there somewhere. Thanks for commenting.

  3. I think also that internet readers may develop short attention spans. I know a book really has to grab my attention from the get go. I am currently reading a book from one of my favorite authors. It starts out pretty flat. I probably would just put in down if it weren't by her. Fortunately, it too is a library book.

  4. I've had friends and others cringe when I tell them I always read the last five pages of a book before I decide to buy. There are a few reasons for this. First is I don't want to go through an entire novel only to find the ending was unsatisfying. Second, if the mystery of the ending is the reason for reading the story, it wasn't a very good story from the start. I'm also of a mind that if a story is good from beginning to end, knowing how it will end does nothing to detract from the pleasure of reading. It's the same reason to read a book more than once, or watch the movie you love a dozen times.

    For my writing, I try to go in with the same idea. To be certain, I want the reader to have interest from the early parts of the story. However, I want the interest to remain throughout and the ending to be consistent and satisfying. I don't like mysteries (to much like work... both in reading and writing) because I don't want to figure things out while I read. Instead, I want to be sucked into the story and live the lives of the people in it. I want to smell the smells, taste the food, and feel the texture of the fabrics. When a character cries, I want to cry with them. When a character is happy, I want to smile with them. When a character is wronged, I need to rage with them.

    I hope, when I sit to craft a story, to include the same elements in my tales.

  5. I must have three or four first chapters that went nowhere simply because they just kind of happened, then afterwards I was never sure what to do with them. I find that with books and TV I have the same mindset, if I can predict where the plot is going to go, it isn't really worth reading or watching. I love plot-lines that throw you down blind alleys and have you convinced that you know where it is going to go until you turn the page and your 'main suspect' dies! Too much Agatha Christie in my youth I think!
    I think some books tell you too much in the blurb - 'Will X manage to do Y before Z happens' - you already know the answer is probably yes! I personally love the ones where the 'hero is dragged out of their 'safe life and into a past they never knew they had..inspiring! :o)

  6. Hi William, yes I've heard of many writers doing the same sort of thing when it comes to reading the end of the book first. I think it's an interesting concept and if it works for you all the better.

  7. Hi Peter,

    You sound exactly like me when it comes to reading. I always want to be intrigued by a story and I hate predictability with a passion. Like you say - why read a book if you know what's going to happen?

    In my writing I like to apply the same sort of concept. In fact, you may like my current WIP when it's published as that has a few twists and turns with exciting surprises. I hope to have the reader always guessing what happens next!

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