Wednesday, June 17, 2015


The sub-title of this post is "5 Sure Fire Fun-Suckers." This is what my son calls books that are too boring to read all the way through.

As authors, we don't want our books to be boring. We want readers to feel excited about our stories, to keep turning those pages. So what can we do to make our books real page-turners? Well, first we should know what NOT to do.

Here are the top 5 fun-suckers:


My 11-year-old daughter was recently assigned a Newbery Award winning book to read for class. It's a great book. I know because I've read it. But she is slogging through it, groaning the whole way. I asked her why she didn't like the book. Her answer:  "The chapters are so looooooong!"

While many readers do enjoy long, detailed chapters, the fact is that shorter chapters create the illusion, if not reality, of a faster read. Every time a reader gets to the end of a chapter he feels like he's accomplished something, that progress is being made. When the chapters are short, a reader will be more willing to read on into the next chapter, and the next.


When writing scenes, new writers often fall into the trap of starting a scene when a character wakes up and ending it when they go to sleep. Boring. In essence, if your character falls asleep, so will your reader. This also holds true for going unconscious.  Nothing is more aggravating for a reader than when there has been all this build up to a climatic moment only to have the protagonist black out and wake up when the action is over. Don't cheat your reader that way.


While closure is good at the end of a novel, too much closer at the end of chapters creates the sense that this is a good point to stop reading. Page-turners do not have tidy chapter endings. They are messy. They are exciting. They leave you hanging.  The goal is for readers to reach the end of a chapter and feel compelled to turn the page to see what happens next. We will discuss this in greater detail when I post Part 3 of this series.


Reading a novel is not like long distance running, where the runner sets his pace and keeps that same rhythm for miles and miles. Nor is it a sprint to the finish line, one quick heart-pounding dash. If a story is slow and detailed and thoughtful all the way through, the reader will get bored. But the reader will also get burned out if there is nothing but action-packed thrill on every single page. You want to vary the pace, with some chapters being fast and exciting, and others slower and more introspective. These slower scenes allow your reader to catch their breath, so to speak, to recharge for the next adrenalin surge.


Long ago authors used to be paid on the word. The longer the book, the more money they earned. So books were tomes of lengthy descriptions that really had nothing to do with the plot. Times have changed. We live a fast-paced society where we are used to getting what we want right now. Many readers expect to get to the heart of the story without having to slog through pages of unnecessary description. Of course some description is important to set the scene, but where authors once would expound about a woman's dress or the architecture of a building for pages on end, now a line or two, or even is some cases a few words will do just as well. Leave the rest up to your readers' imagination.

So there you have them. 5 Sure Fire Fun-Suckers, and some tips on how to avoid them.

What are some of the most boring books you've ever read?

No comments:

Post a Comment