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How to Keep Readers Turning Pages: 3 Things You Must Do

Q: I’ve got a basic plot planned out for my novel, but I’m worried about being repetitive, because the story is about doing the same thing several times (the main character has a list of people he needs to “off”). Do you know of any way to pull off a plot like that without boring the reader or becoming predictable? 

Build tension by making each new conflict
even bigger and tougher than before.

A: That’s an excellent question! Doing the exact same thing over and over will kill your story faster than a sniper’s bullet. So the trick is to make sure that you’re varying the events and raising the tension throughout. There are three things you need to do to pull this off:

1) Make each event significantly different from the one that came before.

You know how in a detective series, no two cases are exactly alike? That’s what you need to emulate here. Give your character a variety of missions, so that each one presents new obstacles. Different setting, different constraints, and so on.

2) Make each obstacle more challenging than the previous one.

Each mission must be tougher than the last. That will help keep the reader interested. Make your reader wonder, “How will he get out of this one?”

  • Quick and dirty writing tip: Shorten the clock. (“You thought you had three days to find this guy? Now you have to find him before sunset.”) 
  • Bonus writing tip: Make things go spectacularly wrong. The hero runs out of ammo. The bad guy gets reinforcements. An ally turns up dead. Etc.

3) Make each event more important than the previous one.

This one is absolutely key. Give the character a rock-solid reason to go on these missions. Then, make each objective more crucial to his overall goal. Make the repercussions for failure get bigger each time. If the first bad guy was a hit man, the second is an arms dealer with a nuclear warhead — and the third guy is a madman who intends to start a global war. Whatever. The point is, failure becomes less and less of an option each time.

If you do all three of these things right (and they’re a lot of work, I know), you’ll find that your character naturally gets more desperate, more resourceful and therefore more interesting as the story goes on. Don’t make things easy on this hero — the closer we get to the end of the story, the more we want to see him wounded, betrayed, down to his last bullet and running out of time.

For more info, check these out:

And one last bonus tip (because I suspect you’re writing an international thriller):

Hope that helps. Have fun writing!

Got a writing question? Just ask!

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