How to Structure Page-Turning Scenes
by Writing Workshops Staff
A month ago
Readers crave a page-turning story, one where the writer has created an irresistible need to know what happens next. And while we often have incredible ideas percolating in our brains, the final result can sometimes stand in stark contrast to our high expectations.
But don’t worry if you’re struggling to craft scenes that are as gripping on paper as they are in your mind. It’s a perfectly normal part of the process, and something that all great writers go through who are committed to honing their craft.
Fortunately, we have a few tips that’ll help move the reader from the first sentence hook all the way to the jaw-dropping conclusion. Here are some things to keep in mind for the page-turning momentum you crave.
Empathy Always Comes First
Readers respond to emotion. So the more attached they feel to your characters, the more invested they’ll be in what happens to them. Take the time to develop each character with a full history and map out their emotional terrain. When they resonate on a three-dimensional level, your reader’s empathy quotient will skyrocket.
Add a Sense of Urgency
What does your protagonist risk losing if they don’t complete their mission? It’s vital that you create a sense of urgency within your story. Preventing an apocalypse within 24 hours is much more intriguing than preventing a hypothetical apocalypse that may never happen. When the stakes are high and there’s a good amount on the line, your reader will be more willing to place a bet on your book.
Don’t Forsake Your Subplots
Your main plot may be the biggest page-turner the world’s seen since The Da Vinci Code, but if your subplots fail to hook the reader, there’s a good chance they’ll give up on the book. Worse yet, some noncommittal readers might choose to skip over large sections of what they deem boring to get back to the action they crave. When you add substantial tension to the subplots, you strengthen the story at large. The reader inevitably wonders how all the pieces will come together, and is willing to follow the journey.
Twists Work in Your Favor
As humans, we become overactive participants in our present realities when the universe plops an unexpected event into our lives. And while we can try to direct our futures, we only have so much control over the events that determine our fate. The same rule must apply to crafting your scenes. Adding unexpected twists will keep the reader rooted in the moment and engaged with what happens next. A strong and sudden event shocks their brains out of where they thought the story was going and back to the current page.
Interpersonal Conflict is a Must
Let’s face it: many of us turn to a good story to get our fix of interpersonal conflict, and for good reason. A great book or screenplay gives readers an opportunity to act out the many different roles and relationships they wouldn’t otherwise adopt in real life. Focus on creating interpersonal conflict that mirrors the multiple temptations within a person’s inner psyche - whether it’s the tension culminating between star-crossed lovers or a family feud that’s been broiling for decades.
Make Pacing a Priority
Mastering pacing is one of the most effective ways to mirror the story’s emotional resonance. In addition to adding tension to the overall dynamic, you’ll need to adopt a fluid rhythm that effortlessly guides the reader from scene to scene. Fast pacing accelerates the scene straight to the point, emphasizing the moment in which the tension finally erupts. Slow pacing can complement foreshadowing elements, stoking a reader’s anticipation or affording them a breather from the action. Both are important to elicit a gripping response. Let the tension guide the pacing, and make sure it comes and goes in waves.
Once you put these steps into practice, you will be well on your way to crafting an irresistible story from beginning to end!