A fun read isn’t just laughs. It’s conflict between not being able to put the book down and not wanting it to end.
- Simple—Keep ‘em busy, keep ‘em moving, and keep ‘em guessing. Remember your reader is relying on you to pick out the important points, and leave out the boring parts. As usual, it all begins with character. What’s in your character’s emotional closet? Like any good closet, it should have a good combination of color, texture, and something for every season. Everything from warm wool coats to skimpy undies. Jeans to party dresses. Worn tennies to sparkly platforms. Granny’s lace hanky to a yoga mat. Is it neat with everything in a labeled container, or is everything tossed in, hiding last year’s favorite sweater? And down in the back behind the box labeled red party heels in the deepest darkest corner is a box that when opened, will cause all kinds of problems.
When you open the door to give the reader a peek inside, be sure they get only a glimpse (If you’re writing a series) or a little longer look, or even leave the door ajar if you’re writing a stand-alone. In the beginning, if that peek can be interpreted in at least two ways, all the better. Was that a real mink coat? Or a fake? Was it a bear? The more questions the glimpse raises, the better. It will tug your reader along to find the answer.
- Setting—Where in the world are these people? Your setting doesn’t have to be exotic, but it does have to be interesting and important. Making the setting a character in the story is important. That means your reader can’t imagine the story taking place anywhere else.
- Action—It goes without saying that something interesting must be happening. That doesn’t mean you have to keep them out of dinners, or out of cars, but if you put them there, you’d better have something happening on more than two levels. Eating or driving, conversation, and something else.
I remember a story (I don’t remember who told it) of a writer who was on a ride-a-long with her local police. She was excited to get all the exciting real cop info she could soak up. It wasn’t long before they were called to a crime scene. He flipped on the lights and siren, then pushed the gas pedal to the floor. As they screamed down the winding road, the writer hanging on for dear life, adrenalin bubbling from every pore what was the topic of conversation? Not the high-speed trip, one the cop had been here on a hundred times. No, it was the birth of his new baby. He went in to detail of the birth of his new tax deduction as he sped down the street to a crime scene. A twist on the usual.
- Dialogue—Load the dialogue with hints and levels of information. There’s what’s being said, what’s meant, what is being felt, what’s being seen, and what’s revealed about the plot and the characters. It’s a lot to work in, but it will keep things moving along and interesting if you weave them all into conversation. I’m not advocating head-hopping. The fewer POV’s you use, the more you can hide from or misdirect the reader. You want the reader to misinterpret something along with the character.
- Characters—Don’t underestimate the power of secondary characters. Interesting SC’s can add life, interest, and drama to a story. Think of your favorite books. Chances are there was a great SC lurking to up the action, deepen the emotion, or lighten the mood.
Adding layers and depth to your writing takes some planning and care. In the end, you’ll end up with a fun read.