Another month has gone by, and it’s time for another Round Robin. This month the topic is “What keeps you glued to a story?”
What a great question! As a writer, I was really interested to know what sorts of things kept readers turning the pages way past bedtime, and so yesterday I posted the same question in a Facebook Book Club I belong to. (By the way, THE Book Club is a great club for readers and authors alike. No author promo allowed and some interesting discussions, recommendations, giveaways, and author interviews. It’s a secret group, but the organisers accept new book-loving readers and authors who apply. If you’re interested, message Arthur Author on FB for details.)
Here are some of the answers to this question in my book club on FB. Readers were glued by:
1. Short chapters with a cliff-hanging ending or a hook. If the next chapter was long, they might be tempted to put the book down until they had more time. This was interesting to me. I’m happy to put a book down mid-chapter – but I have to get to the end of a page. How about you? Do you prefer to finish a chapter before you put a book down?
2. Characters they cared about so that they’re concerned what happens to them. (Lots of people gave this answer, and this was
something I could really relate to, as I feel exactly the same. The characters are THE most important thing in a book to me.)
3. Having chapters devoted to separate characters, so that you want to get to the next chapter and find out what’s going on with a particular character. This was another interesting answer. This way of structuring a book is a growing trend, and something I hadn’t thought of before as a page-turner. I’ve read a few books recently which are structured like this. Personally I find this has the opposite effect on me. I get invested in one character’s POV, and when I have to start a chapter from the POV of someone else it jolts me a little and makes me more likely to put the book down.
4. A couple of people mentioned the plot (“lots of twists and turns”) but surprisingly, far more people felt being invested in the characters was more important to being glued to the book than the actual storyline
5. An interesting narrator was also mentioned (eg Holden Caulfield in Catcher in the Rye). Character, again!
It was a short survey of readers, but some fascinating results. Since I’m a romance writer, I was really happy to find how important the characters were to most of the readers compared to the plot. Romance novels are very much character driven. When I structure a novel, the first thing I do is work out what the conflict is between the hero and heroine. For example, in A Way from Heart to Heart, the hero, Paul, is in love with the heroine, Kate, from the start, but she’s already lost the love of her life and the father of her child. Kate’s very anxious that her son won’t suffer loss again, and she thinks forming a relationship with someone else will only lead to him being hurt. Throughout the book I bring in several situations where this conflict is put to the test, and as Kate’s love grows her inner conflict escalates. I’m never sure if I’ve created a page-turning read until the book is actually released and reviews start coming in, so I was really excited to see this review on Goodreads: ”
“There will be some twists and turns for Kate and Paul as they discover what they have together…This is where I say you must pick up the well written novel to see how well this is all brought out by the author. I loved how this author was able to keep me wondering all the way to the end will they or not get together?”
That’s the satisfaction of a page-turning read! If you’re interested in the chemistry of why we can actually become addicted to reading (as I am!) then here’s a post that explains the science.
How about you? What keeps you glued to a story? And if you’re a writer, how do you make sure your readers will keep turning the pages until the end? If you have any questions or comments at all, I’d love to hear from you!
And as this is another Round Robin month, please do check out the other authors in the Robin for their take on this fascinating subject. Enjoy!