Don Bosco is a writer who specializes in fiction for teens and children. His stories are inspired by Asian legends and pop culture. In 2015, his Sherlock Hong Adventures series was acquired by Marshall Cavendish for international release. He is a local co-organiser for StoryCode Singapore, which promotes transmedia storytelling across different platforms and formats. He also started the publishing studio Super Cool Books in 2011. His latest book is Imagine All This: How To Write Your Own Stories, published by Marshall Cavendish and available late-2016.
Writing a story is much more than just joining up words and composing paragraphs. You need to create an emotional response in your readers, so that they’ll want to keep reading.
Your goal is to be so vivid and entertaining that everything in the world around them suddenly seems a lot less important, and they’re happy to give you all their attention until they reach the end of your story.
How do you write something this captivating and irresistible? It’s simple. Find ways to make your readers curious, so that they’re always eager to see what happens next. And next. And next.
Here are three simple ways to make people pay attention to your story and keep reading until the end.
TIP #1: Surprise
Introduce a sudden event in your story that shocks your main character, surprises your readers, and even better still, sends the story in a completely new direction.
What’s going on? How will your main character respond? Is this a good thing or a bad thing? Your readers will be kept busy as they try to figure this out.
Example: Your main character is on her way to work. She’s walking along and listening to some groovy music on her iPod. When suddenly — AAARGH! — she gets the shock of her life when a big, hairy creature swoops down from the sky and lands in front of her!
TRY THIS: Find a point in your story where things seem to be getting predictable or boring. See if you can introduce a nice surprise here. The more unexpected it is, the better.
TIP #2: Suspense
Surprise is sudden and unexpected. Suspense, on the other hand, builds up slowly, and teases us with anticipation and uncertainty.
To create suspense, plant an intriguing question early on in your story. Keep returning to this as your story progresses, offer some clues, but only reveal the correct answer much later, after your character has successfully tackled a series of obstacles.
This technique is used to create a sense of mystery. Who killed the emperor’s favourite horse? Why did the old woman predict that the young boy would soon be a great hero? Will the sad girl ever see her missing father again? If we like the character, we’ll want to know the answer. And so we keep reading, in order to find out.
TRY THIS: Create a scene early in your story where someone asks an important question, and then reveal that this would be impossible to answer until after your main character does something very difficult or dangerous. So what happens in the end? Keep your readers guessing all the way.
TIP #3: Silliness
Insert comical moments in your story. This is a magical way to reach out to your readers and lift their spirits. Reading something funny makes us feel relaxed and delighted. And so we keep turning the pages, because we want to enjoy more of this.
TRY THIS: Write down your favourite jokes and see if you can work some of these into your story. (Example: Q: What’s more yucky than finding a worm in your apple? A: Finding half a worm!) Or observe your friends and see if they do anything amusing. You’ll definitely come across some funny ideas that you can use.