Monday, February 10, 2014

How do you write a page-turner?

The grande dame of goals to achieve as a writer is the ability to write a page-turner. Now it's a talent more than a skill in my educated estimation. So I'm not entirely sure I could explain how to do it except to discuss "pacing" and how that can draw in readers and hook them to the story so they can't put it down. Now "intrigue" comes into play here, too. Pacing though is easier to explain. Pacing is how you capture the reader's interest and hook them into wanting more. A slow-paced story won't have nearly the effect to grab the reader's interest. So how to you create pacing?

Tip: Lose the abundant exposition. Nothing bogs down a story faster than too much exposition in a scene. For example, it's one thing to build a foundation for the setting, but also you can do too much. Give the reader an idea of a place or time without drilling into so much detail the whole scene gets lost in it. You can set up a scene early in the chapter, and that is typically enough. Let me show you can example from my forthcoming book Body in the Trunk (I'm highlighting the sparse exposition):

"Tess McGree stood in the lobby of the City of Sacramento Police Station, touching various icons on her iPad. She hardly noticed the door opening and closing as police officers passed her. She was a pretty strawberry blonde with light freckles on her face and chest, and she had bright green eyes that were lowered keenly to the screen. She was a tenacious 32-year old who came to the station every single day to wait for Detective Phil Harris, the subject of her book. She was determined to write a non-fiction tale based on a case being investigated by Detective Phil Harris of whom she also had a huge crush. Phil was a charismatic charmer with dark brown hair, and two eye colors (brown and blue) that Tess didn’t notice the first few times they talked. One day she was picking his brilliant mind and she noticed his eyes, which muddied her focus, because she suddenly didn’t know which eye to look at. Phil asked her why she stopped talking."

Do you see how simple? You write the scene with common experiences from a police station lobby. The doors opening and closing and people walking by the heroine is enough. I don't need to describe the people, the furniture, or anything more. Because we've all seen this kind of place, our minds fill in the rest -- and the story isn't bogged down. The story can then flow and move faster while the reader's brain does the work. 

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