How to Get Them to Turn the Page (RWA 2010 Blog Series)

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Today I’m talking about my interpretation of the “Turn the Page! Writing Techniques” Workshop given by Ann Voss Peterson during RWA’s 2010 conference.  Ms. Peterson discussed how to properly pace your story so readers will just have to turn the page.  Below are some of the tips she gave for pacing:

  • Put Your Cause Before Your Effect (Sequence)

The need to find out what happens next, i.e. cause and effect, will get  your reader to read on.  Your cause should come before your effect.  For example, “Kate fell to the ground as Ann hit her” puts your effect before your cause.  Writing like this requires the reader work harder to figure out what is happening, and then you risk her putting the book down.  So make sure your cause comes before your effect: “Ann hit Kate, and she fell to the ground.”  This will make the book read faster.  If you use cause and effect sequence throughout your book, you can then break it in order to foreshadow and cause drama.  An example:  “Except then something happened he didn’t expect.  Their gazes locked.  ‘I want you’, she said, and his mouth fell open.” 

  • Create Conflict

Conflict is the need to find out who wins.  Creating conflict that is not immediately resolved within the same scene is a great way to get a reader to turn the page.  Conflict is conveyed in your word choice (stomped instead of walked, rammed instead of placed), or by using contradiction (i.e. character’s conflicting feelings).  However, you should avoid pointless conflict, like bickering.  The conflict should change something.

  • Have Delayed Gratification 

Anticipation is a powerful thing.  One of Ms. Peterson’s tips for writing fast-paced, emotional scenes is to slow them down (think slow motion).  This will heighten the emotion, and the reader will need to keep reading to find out what happens next.  You do this by adding details (not fluff).  Go into detail about your character’s emotions.

  • Ensure Your Story Escalates to the End

Escalation creates the need to know how things will be resolved.  The action, conflict, and emotion should escalate until the very end.  That means not to keep dragging your story along once the conflict has been resolved.  Ms. Peterson recommends getting your subplots tied up before the black moment.

So what do you think?  Can you think of any other tips to keep readers turning the page?

Join me on Friday as I discuss what I learned from the “Five Ingredients for Crafting a Big Book” Workshop.

Rosalie

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4 thoughts on “How to Get Them to Turn the Page (RWA 2010 Blog Series)

    Michelle said:
    October 20, 2010 at 7:19 am

    This is great! Thanks for sharing.

    Melissa said:
    October 21, 2010 at 8:01 am

    A great recap. Such valid points to remember as I start working on my next project. Did they address chapter breaks or chapter length at all? I’ve seen people use them to break up scenes and keep the reader from finding a nice breaking point!

      rosalielario responded:
      October 21, 2010 at 8:21 am

      Thanks Melissa! This workshop didn’t address breaking points (that I can recall), but the “Humor, Heat and Hooks” speaker noted that you always want to end your chapter/scene with a hook, even if it’s something as simple as “What will happen next?” Ends of scenes and chapters are when the reader is most likely to put your book down. As a writer, your goal is to make the book so good they can’t put it down until it’s done. So the key is finding a good enough hook at the end of each scene/chapter that they must read on! (Love scenes are great things to break up, b/c who can stop reading there?) 🙂

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