1. Ian J.
    Offline

    Ian J. Active Member

    Joined:
    Nov 27, 2012
    Messages:
    299
    Likes Received:
    9
    Location:
    London, England

    What Makes a 'Page Turner'?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Ian J., Dec 31, 2012.

    A thought has been running round my mind for a while now, but I've not come up with any conclusions. What is it that makes a 'page turner' so? It can't be just interest in the characters, as I've read some books with fairly weak characters (Dan Brown, I mean you!) that still have that page turner quality. So what do people here think are the techniques used by authors that keep us reading a book despite ourselves?
     
  2. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    Keep the reader hungry for ore information. Always leave the rader with more questions than answers until the final reveal at the book's conclusion (and even then, you can leave the reader with something to wondr about).
     
  3. Show
    Offline

    Show Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 25, 2008
    Messages:
    1,495
    Likes Received:
    30
    Make me care about what happens next. Make me care about these characters. Draw me into this world. There's no recipe that accomplishes this. But a decent starting point is seeing if you are interested in what you are writing. If you aren't having a "page turning" experience in writing it, how can you expect me to? Just make me feel like I am part of the story and that will be something to make me turn the page. I think sometimes some stories try too hard to follow some "paint by the numbers" approach to being a page-turner and I end up bored as heck and put the book down.
     
  4. thedarkknight
    Offline

    thedarkknight Member

    Joined:
    Nov 29, 2012
    Messages:
    68
    Likes Received:
    3
    There are a lot of things. Create suspense, put someone in danger, create mystery, create very interesting characters, weaving together some intricate plot lines, tell a good story.

    The best thing to do is read a "page turner" and see what the author is doing.

    Right now I started reading Gone For Good by Harlan Coben. I'm about 100 pages into it. In each and every chapter he is employing techniques to manipulate the reader. Some are good, but some are honestly annoying and sort of cheap tricks, like purposely withholding information for no reason.
     
  5. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    amen!... i'd only change 'a' to 'a slew of' and pluralize 'turner'...
     
  6. Nicholas C.
    Offline

    Nicholas C. Active Member

    Joined:
    Jul 22, 2011
    Messages:
    209
    Likes Received:
    5
    Great characters help but, as you pointed out, guys like Dan Brown have written "page-turners" without particularly good characters, and with sub-par prose to boot. I read the Da Vinci Code like everyone else, and though I cringed many a time at Dan Brown's shortcomings, the story was just so well-paced and his use of structure is flawless. Add in to the mix that there is suspenseful action juxtaposed against the larger question of "Who was Jesus really?" (something most of us have pondered) and it makes for a pretty damn good read, shortcomings aside.
     
  7. kitt.moss
    Offline

    kitt.moss New Member

    Joined:
    Dec 23, 2012
    Messages:
    13
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    UK
    I don't think there's any one specific thing, but generally skillful use of suspense, mystery, action etc... knowing how to tell a story.

    JK Rowling is a brilliant storyteller. The way she reveals and witholds information... the way the stories come together as they progress. I find her books immensely helpful when looking at how to construct a story.
     
  8. Ian J.
    Offline

    Ian J. Active Member

    Joined:
    Nov 27, 2012
    Messages:
    299
    Likes Received:
    9
    Location:
    London, England
    One thing I have a problem with (and it's probably just me) is that even when I read something that really is a page turner, I'm not able to see why it is so as I'm not very good at figuring things out :( Just reading lots of page turners leaves me as much in the dark as reading one or none, so it would help if clues to suitable techniques were a little more revealing.

    One thing I have been toying with from a structure point of view is working with significant event points in characters' threads/arcs, where some kind of 'answer' to a previous 'question' causes a new 'question' to be asked. I'm not really sure what I mean though, so it's difficult to put it into words. The questions/answers need not literally be that, but the 'answers' would need to be unresolved elements (loose ends?) that the following scenes work on trying to resolve. Does that sound right?
     
  9. peachalulu
    Offline

    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

    Joined:
    May 20, 2012
    Messages:
    3,829
    Likes Received:
    2,382
    Location:
    occasionally Oz , mainly Canada
    For me it's when a chapter ends on a - What is he going to do now? Moment.

    When the writer sticks his character into predicaments, problems that force a character
    to reassess and react - Even though I say this, I read Flowers in the Attic in one sitting
    when I was a teenager and those dog-gone twits didn't do anything. They just sat in the
    attic and took it! I suppose each page turn I was expecting - now does the villain get
    her come uppance. Now are they going to do something.
     
  10. Nicholas C.
    Offline

    Nicholas C. Active Member

    Joined:
    Jul 22, 2011
    Messages:
    209
    Likes Received:
    5
    Peachalulu reminds me of something else I forgot about Dan Brown. One of the other main reasons he writes page turners is that he ends a lot of his chapters on cliffhanger moments, even those that don't necessarily involve action and are more "internal" cliffhangers. If you go through the Da Vinci code you'll find a lot of them.
     
  11. .Mark
    Offline

    .Mark Member

    Joined:
    Dec 6, 2012
    Messages:
    32
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Pittsburgh, PA
    Never answer one of the readers questions without creating another:)
     
  12. NigeTheHat
    Offline

    NigeTheHat Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 20, 2008
    Messages:
    762
    Likes Received:
    580
    Location:
    London
    People crave closure. Don't give it to them.

    Do you watch any soap operas? They use exactly the same techniques to draw people in - multiple plot threads that feel like they're about to either wrap up or reach some big collision (Marjorie's got her toyboy Paulo round, but unbeknownst to her, her husband Derek has left the office early...), but by the time they DO, there's always something else to wait for.

    Try tracking the plot-threads through your page-turning books. See where the author breaks a scene, and where they go after that. You'll spot patterns soon enough.
     
  13. thewordsmith
    Offline

    thewordsmith Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2009
    Messages:
    874
    Likes Received:
    124
    Location:
    State of Confusion
    There is no one, single thing that ensures a page-turner. In fact, writers have been mulling over that question for centuries.
    Sometimes it's engaging characters romping through ultra believable settings. Sometimes it's the story, what's going on and what's going to happen next that makes the characters secondary. Sometimes it's a combination of ingredients. And sometimes you just can't seem to put your finger on exactly what it is that makes that story a 'can't put it down' book.
    It's kind of like the question of what makes someone sexy. To one guy, it's one set of particulars, yet, to another, it's other things altogether.
    So the answer to your question is not that easy to pin down. What makes a page turner? It's that indefinable 'something' that draws the reader in. What that is ... Well, sometimes, it's just magic.
     
  14. wallbanger
    Offline

    wallbanger New Member

    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2013
    Messages:
    2
    Likes Received:
    1
    I can tell you exactly how to make people turn the page and keep reading. Its a very simple formula that has to do with mind control. I will tell you for free. No money. No credit card. All you have to do is read my next post which I am getting ready to do. Scroll down and see what I have to say, you won't believe it but I guarantee you will read it. It's so simple that even the greatest minds have not figured it out.
     
  15. wallbanger
    Offline

    wallbanger New Member

    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2013
    Messages:
    2
    Likes Received:
    1
    If you read this a lightbulb just went off in your head. And like I promised it was for free.
     
    1 person likes this.
  16. Bright Shadow
    Offline

    Bright Shadow Member

    Joined:
    Feb 24, 2011
    Messages:
    95
    Likes Received:
    7
    In general the answer is characters, stakes and world when applicable.

    Characters have to be established as sympathetic and interesting from the beginning. Stakes have to be established and then raised as the story progresses and in some stories, particularly fantasy and science fiction, the world itself can be so damn cool that you keep turning the pages to see more of it.



    How to make all that come together is what makes a good modern writer.
     

Share This Page