That’s what we want people to say. That’s the reaction we want readers to have – “I got sucked in.” It’s the sort of answer you give when people ask why you look so tired (AKA why you spent the night reading instead of sleeping like a sane adult).
We want that! We want the reader to get so caught up that he or she (or both) cannot stand to put the book down long enough to go to the bathroom or fix dinner. Let alone get some shuteye. We want the story to consume their lives until they each finally reach the last page and close it.
What kind of @#%holes are we?
Seriously, though, we want to take over people’s lives if only for a short time. That makes us a kind of puppetmaster (or puppetmaster wannabes). A kind of puppetmaster who can control your mind through a book.
We want to be Tom Riddle without magic (or the evil… most of us, anyway).
But how? How can you have that much control with only words on a page? With no direct contact with the reader whatsoever? I got sucked into a book last night, and I’ve never met, talked to, or otherwise interacted with the author. So how do you do it?
How Do You Get Readers to Say,
“I Got Sucked In”?
Well, other than having some sort of contest where they have to record themselves saying that and send it to you for a chance at a prize (not quite what I meant), you have to make the story into a kind of emotional vacuum cleaner.
You can think of it as a magnet instead (it’s a better image), but either way, there has to be something in the story that not only grabs the reader’s mental and emotional attention in but also holds it.
- a hook (by definition, the first way you get the reader’s attention)
- characters readers can relate to (Do you keep reading if you can’t relate to the characters? I’ll be honest, if I think all the characters are self-centered idiots, I’m not reading the book.)
- an interesting setting (Oooh. This is new and different. I wanna draw it and write fan fiction in it!)
- an unpredictable plotline (Where is this going? I mean, I’m guessing the good guys are going to win, but how?)
- believable actions (OMG! That is so Character Name! That is exactly what she would do!)
Or any combination thereof. Right? If you have a good hook, relatable characters, and believable actions, can you get by without an unusual setting or an extra-unpredictable plotline? Absolutely.
Oh, sure, it depends on the genre and the reader, but you can totally draw readers in with great characters and a predictable plot. It’s not going to draw as wide a variety of readers as great characters and an unpredictable plot, but it’s definitely doable.
So… wait. Doesn’t that mean that good writing will always draw in readers?
Umm, yeah. I guess it does. If you have a good hook, an intriguing plot, relatable characters, believable actions, and an interesting setting, do you really think that readers interested in that genre are going to set it down? Have you ever set down a book that had all of that? I haven’t, especially not in a genre I like to read. So if you focus on writing a good book, readers are definitely going to get sucked in!
There are just 2 major problems: 1. writing that good of a book (time, practice, effort, etc.) and 2. getting your book into the hands of the right readers.
But that’s a problem for another day. For today, commit to writing your story as best as you can and becoming the ultimate puppetmaster! Er… author. *cough*