Keeping the pages turning.  That’s any author’s goal when it comes to enticing their reader to keep reading into the wee hours of the night.  As writers, our job is to hook the reader in, then keep them glued to the page until the final sentence of the store has been read.

So, what are some ways to keep the reader engaged?  Let’s talk about it!

Unanswered Questions

At the story’s start, you want to serve up some enticing tidbits and information that intrigues the reader.  This leaves them curious about events, people, or things that initially have no clear-cut explanation.

This is a great tool used in mysteries or crime stories.  We’re given possibilities and open-ended questions with multiple answers.  Still, we’re never entirely given enough to piece the whole story together.  

When constructing your story, consider setting up various aspects initially, but don’t start paying them off until it’s vital.  You can even give readers hints along the way, but complete answers are usually left for the final act.

Cutting Them Off, The Classic Cliffhanger

The main character is chased by the villain, his army of goons, and their snarling, barking dogs hot on their tail.  The hero trips on the tree root and flies into the brush, the wind knocked out of them.  They can hear the villain and his men approaching.

NEXT CHAPTER about something else related to the story, but not what happens to the main character.

Another great way to keep the reader invested is to stop in the middle of the action and move over to something else for a chapter before returning to what was happening with the main character.  

Now, the reader – who probably told themselves One more chapter, and I’m going to bed – is now bug-eyed and on the edge of their seat, wanting to know what happens next.  So, they’ll plow through the next chapter to get to where the main character is awaiting their fate to get some relief before closing the book for the night.

TV shows and movies do this as well.  Watch any drama series with high stakes.  A commercial break will inevitably pop up right when something big is about to happen or is revealed, which leads us to…

New Information

Keeping the reader informed is important, but, as I stated before, you don’t want to deliver all the info at once.  Doling out new information as the story unfolds keeps them interested and guessing about what’s really going on and how it all comes together in the end.

How the characters come across new information should be more active than passive.  Have the working things out, processing old information, and coming up with new theories or ideas.  This will also have the reader doing the same as the story moves along. 

You can have the characters be given information, but they have to interpret and act on it themselves. 

Each chapter should deliver new information to the characters and to the reader.  A chapter should be cut if a chapter doesn’t provide information that drives the story forward.

What a Twist!

New information is a great way to present twists to the reader, but don’t go overboard with them.  Too many twists in a story can be confusing.  You risk losing the reader’s trust if you start throwing too many monkey wrenches into what’s already been established.

If you can, save a big plot twist for the story’s final act, but ensure you have given the reader enough information during the story, so the twist has plausibility.

We’ve all seen movies or TV shows where a twist happens, and it makes us upset because it makes zero sense and causes us to feel cheated by the storytellers.  I’m all for story twists, but just make sure they are impactful and keep the reader in the story.

Final Thoughts

I LOVE books that keep me reading late into the night, even if I need to go to bed.  By applying these tools to your story, you can keep the reader engaged in suspense and help keep them turning those pages chapter after chapter.

Happy Writing, and I’ll see you next time!

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