Writing a page turner is a simple matter of hooking readers into reading your book using a great opening and keeping them reading by ending each logical unit of writing, typically a chapter, with a cliffhanger, or unresolved tension, that keeps them reading into the next chapter.
Writing the Hook
Writing a hook to get a reader reading is a matter of opening your book, novella or article with your best material. Beginning your work in this way hooks the reader into reading what you’ve written. Note that most often, your best material does not occur at the chronological start of your story. Often, writing a successful hook involves beginning from the middle of your story and working your way backward and forward as needed to navigate your plot.
Let’s look at an example of a hook to a horror story as an example:
Alvin didn’t know he was dead until someone, to his embarrassment, pointed it out to him.
This opening sentence, or hook, is intriguing for several reasons. How can Alvin “know” that he’s dead? How and why is someone interacting with Alvin if he’s dead?
Note that this opening sentence begins the story in the middle. How did Alvin die? How is he still aware and interacting with people? These questions have yet to be answered. They would likely be answered by future backstory, but there’s no reason to answer them now during the hook. The sole purpose of the hook is to be intriguing, or to hook to reader into reading your work.
Writing the Cliffhanger
The cliffhanger occurs at the end of a logical unit of writing (e.g. a chapter) and is used to keep the reader reading into the next chapter. The word cliffhanger comes from the old movie shorts in which the short would literally leave the hero hanging by a cliff at the end of each episode to keep the viewer watching the next week. Of course, it would always turn out that the hero escaped just in time, but by the time the view discovers this, the purpose of the cliffhanger has been served; namely, the reader has been prompted to keep on reading.
Use the hook to lure readers into reading your work and the cliffhanger to keep them reader chapter-to-chapter.
But then, what is an example of a cliffhanger?