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.