HOW TO WRITE A PAGE TURNER (edited and updated version 6-16-14) Recently, I downloaded a copy of Thread of Hope by Jeff Shelby. As I read the novel, I realized that this is definitely a page-turner. The character returns to the town where his daughter disappeared even though he hates being there because so many triggers remind him of her kidnapping. Even looking at his ex-wife is painful because his wife and daughter look so much alike. He comes back, however, in order to help an old friend who has been accused of a crime and is unconscious in the hospital. The reader can admire Joe Tyler because he forces himself to endure the agony of his memories in order to help his pal. As I read I realized that I rarely stopped at the end of a chapter, so I began to analyze the endings to see what made me continue reading. Here are the endings of some of the chapters. I shortened the list because the book has eighty chapters.
“All I know is that he told her you would know what to do.”
She raised an eyebrow. “They already know you’re back.”
As I gazed at the now gray-looking buildings across the bay, murky behind the fog, I felt no promise. No excitement. No hope.
I stared out that hotel window and I could feel all of it bearing down on me, with no clue how to stop it.
“You go near my daughter, they won’t take you away in an ambulance. It’ll be in a hearse.”
“I’m sorry. I swear to God. I’m sorry.”
A humorless smile took residence on his face and he chuckled quietly, tapping his fingers on the desk.
“So you did come to fight with me.”
“Alright,” I said. “Tell your wife I’ll be at your home to speak to her at nine tomorrow morning. Alone.”
“That’s how I know that something has happened to her.”
“Eight tonight,” he reiterated. “I hope you have some information for me.” I was hoping the same thing.
So I brought up something else that I knew was going to piss him off.
I did think he would’ve noticed that. And that was the problem I was trying to rectify.
“I’ll tell you something about the Jordan family that you don’t know.”
Secrets don’t stay buried. They just wait to be dug up.
But then she abruptly turned and her fist slammed against the door as she disappeared into the locker room.
But after ten minutes, I was tired of waiting and stuck my head into the locker room. A locker room that was already empty.
The situation crystallized for me. And he produced a gun.
Her eyes focused and she finally looked at me. “In case I had to shoot you.”
Each of these sentences could have occurred in the middle of the chapter, but Shelby wisely chose to stop at a point where the reader would want to keep reading. Add a protagonist who is going through a hell of his own while he is trying to help a friend by solving a mystery, and we have the proverbial page-turner. Good job, Jeff Shelby.
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