Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Tips to Keep Your Readers Reading

by Cindy Sproles @CindyDevoted

J. R. Ewing heard a noise outside his office door. He walked into the hallway and BOOM! Shot. Twice. This was the season ender for the 1980 television show, Dallas. America was taken back when they realized two things.   1) Was J. R. Ewing dead? 2) Who shot him?

That closing scene was every writers dream come true . . . having the viewer/reader hungry for more.

Fiction is the most read genre in the country. Not only do authors vie for a spot on the fiction shelves of a bookstore, bigger yet, they vie for the reader’s attention. Thanks to the world of technology and media bumping up a viewer’s expectations, writers must step up the pace to draw the reader in.

The Writer’s Responsibility
Gone are the days of fluff—setting a lovely, soft scene for the opening paragraph. Readers no longer care how many chapters a book has, as long as they can read them quickly. Shorter, action packed, or exciting and enticing movement is what they look for.

It’s our job to hone the craft, unleashing the creativity that lays beneath the surface. Current day readers demand more of the stories they read and we are forced to provide. Otherwise, they choose the theatre over a good book.

Now, more than ever, the responsibility of the writer becomes grittier, and we are forced to offer the reader a more vivid reading experience by tapping into the depths of their emotion. Dinging the senses of the reader causes them to invest deeper into the story and become emotionally involved.

Stretch your imagination and get that hook in the first paragraph. If you want to really wow the reader . . . shoot for the first line.

Readers today want instant gratification, a sudden jolt into the movement and pace. The hook should be so powerful and engaging, that the reader asks the question, What is going on here? The writers hand should be so strong that it stretches out of the first paragraph wrapping its fingers around the neck of the reader, yanking them head first into a fictional bubble they have no desire to leave.

Building the fictional bubble remains an important writing staple. It’s creating a world that draws your reader in allowing them to shut out the reality. The fictional bubble is where the reader escapes to relish and savor the story they are see unfold.

How do we build a stronger fictional bubble? Research. Do your homework. Know the subject you are writing about. The greater your knowledge on the subject you write about, the deeper you can draw the reader in with unique literary description and detail. It the writer becomes a great liar, spinning a story of twists and turns, only dropping in enough untruth, to make the reader question. The instant your description becomes cliché, pushes too far, or turns inaccurate . . . the second your reader knows more than you . . . the fictional bubble pops and you lose the reader. Creating this bubble that manipulates your reader and drives the story ahead is a tough job. No one ever said writing was easy. It’s filled with reader expectation and if you let them down, take them from their bubble, your readers are disappointed.

Ending every chapter with a cliffhanger drives the reader into a “can’t put it down” mode. It’s important to understand cliffhangers are not always action packed. They can simply leave the reader mid-stream of a thought.

The lights in the theater dimmed. He was three rows in front me. And I needed to ask him a question.

Something this simple strikes the reader’s curiosity and forces their desire to know. Sometimes it’s just a question. The point is, end every chapter with a line that catapults the reader forward.

It’s up to the writer to stretch and hone. When you make the effort to step up the pace of your writing, your stories will have meat on the bones and your readers will no longer be “just readers.” They will be fans.

Tips to help keep your readers reading - @CindyDevoted on @EdieMelson (Click to Tweet)

The author's job is to learn how to write so readers keep reading - @CindyDevoted on @EdieMelson (Click to Tweet)

Cindy Sproles is an award-winning author and popular speaker. She is the cofounder of Christian Devotions ministries and managing editor of Straight Street Books and SonRise Devotionals, imprints of Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. Cindy is the executive editor of
www.christiandevotions.us and 
www.inspireafire.comShe teaches at writers 
conferences nationwide and directs The Asheville Christian Writers Conference - Writers Boot Camp. 

She is the author of two devotionals, He Said, She Said - Learning to Live a Life of Passion and New Sheets - Thirty Days to Refine You into the Woman You Can Be. Cindy's debut novel, Mercy's Rain, is available at major retailers. Visit Cindy at www.cindysproles.com and book her for your next conference or ladies retreat. Also connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.


  1. As an avid reader and sci-fi fan, I love cliffhangers in my reading.
    Great post, Cindy!

  2. I like cliff hangers as well, but NOT at the end of the book (like Who shot JR?) I've actually read Women's Fiction that end that way, never tying up several loose threads.
    I like your idea of the Fiction Bubble. I will "chew" on that a while.
    Thanks Edie for you amazing posts and for the guest writers you feature as well!

    1. Cliffhangers should be carefully crafted. I.m like you...close the story without that in the last chapter.

  3. Cindy, I like your description of the fiction bubble and the writer's responsibility to keep the reader inside it. That's given me a different perspective to view my writing through. Who shot JR? brings back a lot of childhood memories. :) That was a crazy summer between the season finale and the first episode that fall. That cliff hanger inspired a song, t-shirts, and all kinds of conversations. Quite genius.

    1. I learned about the fiction bubble from the late Ron Benrey. His way of writing fiction has really helped me.