How to Write Page Turners

Scarab and page turners
Page turners: Scarab earned its status when it held its best seller slot on Amazon for over two years

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WRITERS strive to write page turners every time they set fingers on a keyboard, stories that keeps us wanting more.

But how is this achieved?

Often, the trick to writing page turners is to create anticipation in the minds of the readers by raising questions that desperately need answering.

Eight questions to pose in writing page turners:

1. A Prediction: Knowing that something has been predicted for the future creates tension in the reader or audience. Will the prediction come true or not?

2. Hobson’s Choice: None of the two choices offer a true solution, but we still wonder which one will be chosen.

3. The Bait or Hook: Something unexpected and compelling occurs which holds our undivided attention.

4. The Invisible Influence: There is something or someone influencing events but it remains unknown to us.

5. Unsolved Mystery: In his course on screenwriting, Hal Croasmun mentions that every mystery contains three aspects, of which one or two remain unknown till the end—what happened, who did it, and how did it happen? In trying to discover the answer to one or more of these question, keeps us glued to the story.

6. The Cliffhanger: This is an unexpected end or twist to a scene or chapter. We need to know the answer, so we keep reading or watching.

7. Anticipation Created by Dialogue: Something is mentioned by a character or characters which causes us to anticipate a future event. We worry or wonder about it.

8. Apprehension Caused by Genre: In a tragedy, for example, we have certain expectations about the end of the story. Other genres, such as Noir, raise expectations about the behaviour of the femme fatale, or the moral health of the protagonist.

Although this list is by no means replete, it is a start to get you thinking.

Summary

Page turners raise several of the following questions—-a prediction, a Hobson’s choice, a bait or hook, invisible influences, an unsolved mystery, a cliffhanger, anticipatory dialogue, or apprehension caused by genre.

Published by

Stavros Halvatzis

I'm a writer, teacher, and story consultant.

One thought on “How to Write Page Turners”

  1. Good Post . This article is aseptically appropriate on how to write good television be it for a big budget comic book adaptations like Gotham or a shoe string budget Afrikaans soup like Binnelanders . The points mentioned above is really what defines a soup . Imagine being a writer at Stark studios who has to write episodes shot 3 mouths in advance for a daily soup. As a screen writer for Binnelanders your day job is to make sure that the script is production savvy , engaging enough for young people and not to intense of the ‘ou tannie’ who waits all day for the daily episode. It’s really about having a understanding of the genre before picking up a pencil.

    In short : Know your market , know your audience , know your genre before you can determine your script.

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