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I’d had a general sense for this aspect of writing before, but I’d never really put a name to it. Ever since I noted that category on the scorecard, however, I began to pay much more attention to it while reading.
So what is the urgency to keep reading?
Whenever you see statements in reviews or blurbs like, “I couldn’t put the book down!” or “I was on the edge of my seat!” the reviewers are talking about the urgency to keep reading. It’s the element that has readers saying, “Just one more chapter” three chapters after they should have stopped, and it makes people stay up all hours of the night to finish your book.
And I truly believe that it’s essential to the success of any novel in any genre.
In order to create the urgency to keep reading in your novel, there are a few things you can do:
- Leave unanswered questions (until the end). Unanswered questions are a great way to keep readers interested. While you don’t necessarily need to string along the same question throughout the entire book, answering one question in a way that opens up several other questions is a great way to develop the plot, while still leaving readers to wonder how these new questions will be answered.
- Put your protagonist in danger. Now, when I say “danger” I don’t necessarily mean risking your protagonist’s life (although it could be). Your protagonist could be in danger of losing a job, or a friend, or a dream—whatever it is, make sure it’s something that is dear to them. In some genres, this might mean your protagonist is in danger of losing his life, but in others, it could be a relationship or opportunity that’s at risk. The point is to raise the stakes so that the readers are not only cheering your protagonist on, but afraid that they may fail to save whatever it is that they are trying to keep.
- Keep your protagonist from reaching his/her goal (until the resolution). This is a big one. Regardless of your genre, every novel must have a protagonist trying to accomplish or reach some kind of goal. The plot itself is then the character’s journey to try to reach said goal. In some novels, that goal may evolve along the way, but the important thing is that whatever the goal is, it is out of reach throughout the large majority of the novel. By making your characters fail, often repeatedly, to reach that goal, you keep your readers hooked because they’ll want to find out how your character will manage to succeed.
If you incorporate these elements into your novel, you’ll be well on your way hooking your readers, and keeping them interested throughout your book.
What books can you think of that successfully utilized the urgency to keep reading?