"How do you write a good page turner?"
Read the first chapter of my latest crime thriller DARK CITY
Recently I was asked a question.
"How do you write a good page turner?"
I thought about it for a while and is was my response.
How I write:
Lots of people have a story to tell and its how it is told that makes the difference. For writing to be effective you must be able to understand the basic elements of storytelling. There are many fundamentals that make up a good intriguing story or page turner.
I would consider my crime thrillers to be what is sometimes referred to as hard-boiled or crime noir. I must confess I do favour narratives about good people who do bad things for good reasons. My stories are full of action and intrigue, I don’t just want the story to flow I want it to surge. I write about characters that are tough and quirky, carefree, exciting, loving, loyal, larger than life and dangerous. I like to write about the power of one and people who are up against the odds but carry on no matter what the cost. I write about people who are right at the end of their tether, and then I drop them in the deep end to see how they survive, if at all. I try to make the good characters likable and of course the opposite applies to the villains, I make them utterly detestable creatures.
The basic ingredients for writing a story:
Points of view, setting and dialogue.
Before you start your story you must make sure you know who is going to tell it. Simply put the first person narrative is when one of the main characters tells the story. The reader is ‘with’ the same person all through the book. The third person point of view is when both the writer and the reader know what is going on. The third person narrative can put one character on the stage all the time or there can be multiple view points, the action moves along from person to person. Third person point of view can be all knowing, the narrator knows everything that is going on in the characters minds and therefore can reveal these thoughts to the reader. By using breaks between the scenes and new chapters I can jump from one character to the other. I’m mindful not have too many characters telling the story as this can be confusing for the reader so I set a limit.
For me, it is essential that the description of the setting that the character or event is taking place in, must be described in detail in order to convey the right atmosphere. I must admit that I’m guilty of over doing this aspect on occasion, and I have to remember to reign myself in. I start with the basics, and embellish the scene until it feels right.
Basic points to remember: Is the scene taking place inside or outside? The elements are always important for conveying mood. Is it busy outside are there traffic jams are people rushing around? What time of day is it? Is it hot or cold outside etc? The sights, sounds, smells and colours of the world around your character must be described in succinct detail. I try to paint the picture for the reader and then lead them into it.
Setting: extracts are from Necessary Evils:
1. As he stepped outside a gigantic flash of lightning lit up the entire street, followed a split second later by a terrific detonation of thunder that shook the ground; he stood for a moment and gazed up in wonder as the battle raged amid the dark clouds.
Where is he going what does the scene convey to the reader? There is great drama building here.
2. He pulled the warm quilt over his head, curled into a ball, and tuned his ear to the sounds of the world outside, a despondent yelp of a dog, a rumble of thunder, the wail of a police siren.
Why is he hiding under the quilt? What has done? Where has he been? Are you hooked, do you want to read more do you feel the need to turn that page to find out what’s happened here and why?
Dialogue is quicker to read and therefore moves the reader faster through the story. Dialogue defines the character. I must confess that I do tend to use a good dose of colourful language in my dialogue, but for me, with the type of characters that are in my books, it would be strange not to have the odd curse or swear word in there somewhere.
Dialogue makes the distinction between characters, by the way they speak to each other. I keep it real, and just like an everyday conversation the sentences are kept relatively short.
Writing is an art form, a craft which takes a long time to perfect. The more you do it the better you become, for me it’s a slow process full of pitfalls and hurdles to overcome and can be a tremendously frustrating undertaking at times. However, to have a book that you have lost sleep over and have spent a year or two writing sitting in the palm of your hand, is a truly extraordinary experience.
Warm regards from your humble narrator, and best of luck with your writing endeavors,