Thursday, January 3, 2019

Dear O'Abby: How Do I Create a Page Turner When My Story Is Quiet?

Dear O'Abby,

I'm writing a novel that I would call quiet.  There isn't a lot of external action, but the characters go through substantial change through the course of the book.  I was taught that every chapter needs to leave the reader with a reason to turn the page to the next one, but in a book where the conflict and the character journey are all driven internally, how do I create a cliff-hanger at the end of each chapter?



Dear Quiet-Writer,

Even a quiet novels without a large amount of external action can be filled with suspense.  The end of each chapter doesn't need to be a huge cliff-hanger like those old serials they showed at the movies where a hero would be left in an out-of-control railcar heading for a cliff and the end of an unfinished railway line at the end of that week's installment.  It just needs to end with something intriguing enough to make the reader want to continue reading.

Sometimes it helps to stop mid-scene.  Someone is about to say something that will be revelatory to your MC?  Don't let the scene continue until its conclusion, break it just before the speaker says whatever will change things for your MC and start a new chapter.

Other times you can finish the scene, but leave questions unanswered so the reader needs to read on to find them out.

I find it helpful sometimes to write without imposing chapter breaks when I'm drafting.  Just write the story all the way through, beginning to end.  When you're editing, find the places you feel are the most intriguing and put your chapter breaks in these places temporarily.  You may find they are far apart, or unevenly spaced which will also indicate you may need to edit for pacing and suspense. Sometimes this is as easy as moving a few scenes around to balance the tension, and other times it may require writing some new scenes to add more in places where things might have gone a little flat.

Even quiet books can be filled with suspense and tension.  People are unpredictable and often behave in unexpected or even irrational ways.  If you find the tension dropping at some point in your story, have a character do something unexpected.  The consequences of this single action can ripple through the entire book and add layers of suspense or tension for the other characters too.

Hope this helps.

X O'Abby

1 comment:

  1. This is very helpful advice! Thanks for sharing.


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