Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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Writing a page-turner

Chuck Wendig has a good post up about the sorts of things that create a real page-turner of a book. As always from Chuck, fun to read. Not that I think advice, even good advice, is terribly helpful to a writer, but then I’m totally a do-it-by-feel-and-then-tweak kind of writer, personally. I have a hard time imagining the kind of write-by-the-numbers thing that would allow someone to actually take advice. Even, as I say, good advice.

But it’s still a fun post to read.

This is my favorite bit:

Point To The Shoe: “That’s Gonna Drop,” You Say

Sometimes it’s not about surprise. Sometimes it’s about spoiler alerting your own story. “Heather dies in seven days.” You’re giving away the end of the magic trick. You’re saying: “I’m going to turn this donkey into a bushel of mangosteens.” You just gave away the ending — or, at least, gave away something that’s going to happen. You’re pointing to the Sword of Damocles dangling over our heads and saying: “This shit right here? It’s totally going to fall. Head’s up. Like, literally.” And then you get to spend the story showing us how. It’s a tease, a hook, a taste — and if it pleases, the desire to want more will power them to turn pages oh-so-quickly.

I can think of two really good examples off the top of my head:

THE RAVEN BOYS by Stiefvater, which opens like this: Blue Sargent had forgotten how many times she’d been told that she would kill her true love. And then the short prologue finishes by adding, And Neeve added before Blue could answer, “This is the year you’ll fall in love.”

Quite a shoe. It doesn’t drop in this book, either. I haven’t read the sequel, but I bet this particular shoe isn’t going to drop till the last book. Anyway, there’s an example of a good prologue, as well as Sword of Damocles.

I expect a lot of you have read THE RAVEN BOYS, but I’m not sure this next example got as much buzz.

This is THE DEATHDAY LETTER by Hutchinson, which also starts with a (very) short prologue, like so: The first thing you need to know about Oliver Travers is that at the end of this story he’s going to die. There’s no twist of fate that save him, no deus ex machina, no deal with the devil that changes what’s inevitably going to occur. He’s going to croak and that’s just how it is. But this story isn’t about Oliver Traver’s death, it’s about his life, and the best person to tell that story is Oliver.

This is a unusual YA story. Here’s the teaser at Amazon:

Oliver lives in a world where at some point in their lives, everyone receives a Deathday Letter, a letter that kindly lets you know you have twenty-four hours left to live. Abraham Lincoln received one, Heath Ledger received one, and on an otherwise typical Thursday morning, fifteen-year-old Oliver Travers receives one. Bummer.

With his best friend by his side, Ollie has one day left to live life to the fullest, go on every adventure possible…and set things right with the girl of his dreams.

Interesting concept, nicely handled. It is in fact a page-turner of a story. Have any of you read this one? I liked it quite a bit — and I do think it’s a page turner.

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