Coming March 2020

The Copy Cat

What makes a page-turner?

"And that's what I call a page turner."

“And that’s what I call a page turner.”


I have been thinking about this topic a lot lately, since my work-in-progress is not yet a page turner (well it is in places, but not all the places, sigh…).

I’m sure you are like me and you read incessantly. Certainly reading makes you a better writer, but so does thinking about the approach you will take with YOUR story.

Will you be cheeky? Will you be the anonymous tale-teller? Will you tell your tale in such a way that there is a sliver of the sinister? First person, third person? There is so much to think about.

The concept and the characters have to draw us in. You can have the best concept in the world, but if the characters don’t make us want to walk a mile in their shoes, don’t make us care what happens to them, well we may find ourselves completely uninterested.

If the characters are amazing and the plot is dull, we wish someone could just scoop them up and put them in another book!

It’s all about the balance, isn’t it? The elusive balance. When you read it, you feel it, even if you can’t quite articulate it what makes it work.

I was able to devour hundreds of pages of The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, but her earlier book, The Secret History, left me cold.


I cared what happened to Theo in The Goldfinch, I wanted him to make it. If you ask me the names of the characters in The Secret History, I couldn’t tell you. It was an intriguing plot, but I didn’t love any of the characters enough to love the book.

For sure this is why Harry Potter has struck such a chord. Rowling has pulled off the near impossible: she makes us care about all of the characters, both within the arc of each book and within the arc of all seven books in the series. It is masterful and something we ought all aspire to.


And no, I am not going to torture my Work in Progress until I am convinced that it belongs in the pantheon of The Goldfinch or Harry Potter, but I am going to work at it until I am convinced I have done all I can to make my readers desperate to turn the next page!

How about  you? What makes a book a page-turner for you?

Author of Children's Literature