One of the challenges writers face is keeping their readers hooked. The audience is unpredictable. They may like reading your material one moment and be absolutely bored of it the next. The public can be a fickle thing, but the public is someone we need.
There are different tricks to keep your readers engaged. Here are seven tips:
Craft an intriguing title
Think of your title as bait. It is said that one must not judge a book by its cover, but let’s be honest—we buy books with covers and titles that catch our attention. Make sure your title sounds catchy so it’s easily remembered. You should also avoid using long or unfamiliar words in the title. Notice that I didn’t use “short.” Not all titles have to be short. Consider the Harry Potter series and the Twilight series. The former has long book titles, and the latter has very short titles. Yet both series are still memorable.
Consider not creating your title before you finish the story. Otherwise, you’ll always be conscious about whether or not your story is staying true to the title. You can create a working title, but don’t be too worried about matching your story to your title as it is something you can change later on.
Write a good introduction
Now that your readers have bitten the bait, it’s time to reel them in. Make sure to create an introduction that’s just as intriguing. You don’t want your readers to close the book on the first page, do you? One of the little-known cardinal rules of creating introductions is to never begin your story with the weather. Why? Simple. If someone tries talking to you and opens the conversation with the weather, will you think this person is interesting? I don’t think so. If you want your readers to get hooked as soon as their eyes hit page 1, stray from the norm. Ask yourself, “What’s something I’ve never read as an introduction before?”
Make your dialogue realistic
Writing whole and complete sentences is all fine and dandy and shows good command of the language, but there’s one small problem: it’s not at all realistic. Moreover, your characters will sound boring at some point. (Unless of course your character is an academic, or a professor, or someone else with a penchant for perfection, then by all means, let them speak in perfect sentences.) Don’t be afraid to include laughter, stutters, filler words, repetitive words, or even nonverbals in your dialogue, even in the middle of sentences. It adds personality to your characters and makes their conversations more realistic.
Surprise your readers
This is probably the easiest way to get your readers to keep reading. The fun part is, there are so many things you can do to surprise your readers. Drop an unexpected plot twist. Show the different side of a character. Reveal something about the villain. Introduce another character.
Have something unexpected happen to the protagonist. Make a simple detail suddenly be very important to the quest. End the chapter on a cliffhanger. The possibilities are endless!
Make your characters relatable
Attempting to eat an entire chocolate cake may seem exciting, fun, and doable, but halfway through, you’re bound to get tired of the taste. The same applies to characters. Don’t make them too one-dimensional. Give your protagonist an annoying habit, like chewing with their mouth open. Give your antagonist an endearing hobby, like rescuing animals. Give your characters nuances, habits, speaking patterns, or catchphrases. Give them shallow-yet-valid baggage. Don’t make your characters too perfect. Have some aspect of their personality that needs improvement. These will give your readers something to root for.
Use varied sentence length
Try reading my sentences now. Look at how I write. I’m writing in five words. It sounds monotonous and metric. It appears and sounds boring. Do not write like this.
Now read this. And this. This. Notice how different the sentences sound now. It’s flowing. I can tell you to breathe. To inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale again. And you follow.
Adding variety to sentence lengths keeps the flow interesting. Plus, it’s great for creating drama. Shorter sentences have more impact, as well as shorter paragraphs. You can also use varying sentence and paragraph lengths to preempt events. If your story has changing perspectives, you can also use sentence and paragraph lengths to indicate a certain character’s personality.
Show, don’t tell
A lot of writers make the mistake of telling when they should be showing. To be fair, the difference is pretty hard to explain. To better illustrate this, here’s an example:
Suppose that your narrator would like to say that it started raining while he was outside. Instead of letting your character say that the rain started pouring and he was bound to get wet because he didn’t have an umbrella, consider describing the scene. Describe how it started with a single drop on his head and how in seconds the water started seeping through his clothes.
Use the senses to describe the scene. Showing, not telling, takes your readers to the scene and allows them to feel it themselves.
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