The one of the best things that has happened to me since becoming involved with this blog has been the friends I have made, not only with the other Foxes ,(past and present), and the Hound, but with so many others by way of the Hound and Foxes.
Today I have the privilege of having one of the new friends as a guest. Through the magic of the internet, my Facebook pal and friend of others here, author Paula Martin.
I will let her own biography speak for her:
Paula Martin lives near Manchester in North West England and has two daughters and two grandsons.
She had some early publishing success with four romance novels and several short stories, but then had a break from writing while she brought up a young family and also pursued her career as a history teacher for twenty-five years. She has recently returned to writing fiction, after retiring from teaching, and is thrilled to have found publishing success again with her contemporary romances.
Apart from writing, she enjoys visiting new places. She has traveled extensively in Britain and Ireland, mainland Europe, the Middle East, America and Canada. Her other interests include musical theatre and tracing her family history.
This being our Free Week here at 4F,1H, I invited Paula to post on any subject and she chose to write an instructive essay on writing a romance novel that will keep a reader’s interest: the making of a real “page turner”.
I’m sure you will find this very interesting! Paula, in her own words~
What makes a page turner?
Comments and reviews about my romance novels quite often contain phrases like:’ Couldn’t put it down’ (or ‘unputdownable’ as one person said!) or ‘I was glued to it’ or ‘Once I started, I had to carry on until I finished it.’
Obviously, these are very satisfying remarks for an author, but they made me think what aspects of a novel make it a page turner. I asked the question on Facebook, and what follows is a summary of some of the points that were made (many of them several times!) together with some of my own thoughts.
The first requisite, of course, is that readers want to know what happens next. This means that the plot must be intriguing enough for them not to be able to guess the rest of the story by the time they get to Chapter 2. Of course, with a romance novel, they know the hero and heroine will get their happy ending, but the author must introduce enough unexpected twists and turns to keep readers in suspense and wondering how that is ever going to happen.
Another important aspect is to keep the story moving forward. Long descriptions of people and places might be suitable for literary fiction, but romance readers don’t want to read a whole page describing the scenery, or the layout of a house or exactly what the characters are wearing down to the last detail. A short paragraph with well-chosen words is enough to allow readers to use their own imaginations. Anything more can slow down the action – which brings me to another big turn-off i.e. irrelevant scenes where nothing actually happens.
There’s no need to describe the heroine’s shopping trip, or her day at work, or her cooking and gardening efforts, unless something happens during these events that advances the story. This may seem obvious, but I’ve read some stories that have contained scenes which seem to have no point or value. It’s worth remembering that every scene, indeed every page, should contain some kind of ‘action’. It doesn’t necessarily have to be something dramatic, but there should be a significant ‘something’ that relates to the plot or to the characters. This could anything from a major turning point in the story or the introduction of a new character to a subtle change of attitude or a character learning something about themselves or the other person or the situation they are in. This applies to conversations too. Skip all the ‘Hello, how are you?’ pleasantries and/or dialogue that rambles on with no real relevance to the rest of the story.
Cliff-hangers are a well-known device to keep readers turning the pages, especially at the end of a chapter. It’s been said that you should never end a chapter with a character turning off the light and going to sleep – because if your readers are reading in bed (which, of course, many people do) they will probably do the same! An author can drop hints during a chapter which make readers start asking questions e.g. Character A seems to have a hidden agenda, what is it? I used this in my latest novel, ‘Irish Inheritance’, which brought this comment from my beta reader, “I’m dying to know what …. (no spoilers!) is up to.” Ending a chapter with a crisis or problem for one character will make readers want to know what happens next, of course, and if the next chapter starts with another character’s point of view, they’ll read on to find out what happened to the first character.
There are also times when readers can be one step ahead of your characters. In this case, they will want to know what will happen when the characters find out about something they (the readers) already know. In ‘Irish Inheritance’, readers know from the back cover blurb that Jenna and Guy jointly inherit a house in Ireland. However, in Chapter 1, although my hero and heroine meet, neither of them realises the other is the joint inheritor. Hopefully, this will make people continue reading to discover where and when Jenna and Guy realise this – and what happens when they do.
My final point is the characters themselves. Romance readers want to empathise with the heroine and fall in love with the hero, and the author needs to ensure that readers get to know the characters well enough to care about them. This means that’ll be interested enough to turn the pages to find out what happens to them, and how they will reach their happy ending.
Thank you, Paula! I’m sure we’ll have a number of comments; I’ll start out with a few myself. But before we go any farther, let’s take a look at the new novel that she mentioned, “Irish Inheritance”.
English actress Jenna Sutton and American artist Guy Sinclair first meet when they jointly inherit a house on the west coast of Ireland. Curious about their unknown benefactress and why they are considered ‘family’, they discover surprising links to the original owners of the house.
They soon unravel an intriguing tale of a 19th century love affair. At the same time, their mutual attraction grows, despite personal reasons for not wanting romantic involvements at this point in their lives.
A local property agent appears to have her own agenda concerning the house while other events pull Jenna and Guy back to separate lives in London and America. Friction builds over their decision about the house and its contents.
Will their Irish inheritance eventually drive them apart – or bring them together?