The Page Turner—how to write it.

Page turner
Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness is a great page turner.

The page turner. It’s every writer’s dream to write a novel or script that the reader simply can’t put down until the last page. But how do we go about achieving this result? Below are some suggestions.

Include hooks whenever possible: A hook is an action or event that draws us into the story in an compelling way. Use hooks to kick-off your story, as well as to bolster interest at the beginning or end of your scenes. 

Write with attitude: Use punchy, or concrete language, depending on the subject matter, that bristles with attitude. Middle-of-the road, or non-comital language is boring. What is the writer’s attitude towards the events being described? What is the character’s? Make sure attitudes are strongly revealed.

Write in a way that creates suspense: The famous film director, Alfred Hitchcock, was renowned for creating suspense in his movies. He said that surprise lasts for a few seconds, but suspense may carry the whole scene, or even the entire movie.

Create Anticipation: Anticipation causes us to want to know what the next action, event, or outcome of a situation is likely to be. It differs from suspense in that it does not necessarily involve a threat, or danger.

Anticipation may be introduced in dialogue, through a character talking about a forthcoming event, in a conversation with another, or through a major story goal being set—such as the hero winning or failing to win the prize at the end of the tale.

Create Uncertainty: Introduce uncertainty about the outcome of specific events, your Hero’s ability to achieve her goal, or the way the story will end. The reader will keep turning the pages in order to find out.

Write with emotion: Writing with emotion means that your characters makes us feel their joy, pain, and sensitivity as if they were our own. My mentor, the South African film director, Elmo De Witt used to say that a story without emotion is a story that doesn’t get read. He couldn’t have been more right. Inject emotion into your writing and watch those pages turn.

Although there are others, these six simple techniques, deftly handled, will help to turn your story into a page turner that readers will find hard to put down. 


Hooks, attitude, suspense, anticipation, uncertainty, and emotion are six ways to help you create a page turner. Use one or more of these techniques whenever possible.

One thought on “The Page Turner—how to write it.

  1. Gerhard Pistorius

    Emotion is important. However conflict is even more important. There must be something that makes spark fly. What is important about specifically Dramas and Romantic comedies is that there is usually a conflict situation caused by a misunderstanding. Classic Shakespeare : Romeo and Juliet’s families are at war – What will happen should there families find out about there forbidden romance. Merchant of Venice : He must pay back his debt or die after giving up a pound of flesh.

    Other film example : Saving Private Ryan – Multiple soldiers risking there lives to save the life of one – how will Captain Miller keep the faith , maintain moral and how will his troops react when Private Ryan refuses to go with them.

    Also every soap ever produced is found pone conflict : Last time on Binnelanders / Egoli: Place of Gold X ‘ wife was sleeping with Y’s best friend and Z knows about it. There must be a motive among characters such as Greed , power , lust , revenge.

    In short : Never forget what each character wants and how there separate wants and needs spark the conflict between them. This is especially relevant to television production. There is a reason way Egoli ran for over four thousand episodes


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