Maeve Binchy on what makes a page turner

Page-turn·er  n. Informal – A very interesting, exciting, or suspenseful book, usually a novel.

Today, in our writers corner is a short video clip of Maeve Binchy speaking about characterization and what makes a page turning story. I think Maeve picks up on some important points here in a nicely succinct and encouraging way.

Pace is, of course, vital to creating a page-turning novel but it’s important to note that this doesn’t mean 100% overdrive at all times. Readers can get burned out. They need peaks and valleys, excitement teamed with periods of reflection or planning when the characters take…a pause. From there the reader is ready for the ride once more. Too much all at once can actually be an enormous turn-off for the reader, who will most likely feel swamped and confused by too much adrenalin in a novel. If you are confused about the idea of peaks and valleys let me direct you to Jack Bickham’s 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes.

When you do write those peak scenes make sure that they are real heart-stopping nail-biters, make your reader hang on your every word and above all be sure that they care about what happens next – that they are vitally invested in those characters. Be sure that you have wrung every ounce out of every scene because it’s all too easy to sit back contented too soon. You, the author, are your protagonist’s worst enemy, don’t give them any easy breaks, throw them into all manner of trouble any time you find the chance. Your reader will love you for it and, what’s more, they’ll be coming back to you for more of the same.

See also: The perennially useful Writers and Artists website on the Seven secrets of writing a page-turner by Emma Bowd.

Do you have a vital formula that you’d like to share for the perfect page turner? How should writers go about dealing with pace in their novels? Your comments are always appreciated.

Published by Jill London

Hi, I’m Jill, a writer and teacher living in the UK, usually behind a desk but sometimes on a sofa with a book or a film. I began writing at around age three, legibly by five, although I didn’t write any stories until I was older. Aged eleven, I began writing children’s fiction, mostly middle-grade fantasy and I’m still doing it to this day. I have had stories published online and in My Weekly magazine. The best bit about writing is when ideas pop into your head (from the writing fairy presumably?) and everything starts clipping together like a jigsaw puzzle. The worst bit? When you start to get the feeling there's a piece missing from the box...

%d bloggers like this: