Hooking the reader

Tips for maximizing reader engagement.

What Does the Inciting Incident Actually Do?

The inciting incident is often misunderstood. Even seasoned writers sometimes make claims that there can be multiple inciting incidents or that it can occur before the story even begins. But I would argue that most of those claims are rooted in a misunderstanding of the role the inciting incident plays within a story.

Turning Points Propel Your Story

Turning points are why scenes exist. So it’s essential to understand how and why they work within your story to propel both plot and character.

The Case for Pantsing

Writing “by the seat of your pants,” aka “discovery writing” works better for some writers than outlining does. Read about the rationale for pantsing here.

Subjective Conflict

The idea behind subjective conflict is this: the reader can sometimes experience conflict even when the characters in the story don’t. This week’s article appears at DIYMFA.

Use “Urgent Story Questions” to Create Tension

Sometimes, the main source of tension in a story comes from a lingereing “urgent story question” that nags at the reader. You should be conscious of your story’s USQs so that you can make the most of them and create a more gripping story.

The Problem with “Show, Don’t Tell”

The old writing adage of “show, don’t tell” is good advice, but it can occasionally get writers in trouble. Good writers sometimes fall prey to hyperdetailing–giving excessive description without serving the story.

Create a Moving Character Arc

Character arc (aka the internal plot) is essential for a satisfying story structure. You might have tension on every page and you might follow what you think is a winning structure, but if you don’t have a character arc, your story will fail to resonate with readers. Learn the key concepts for character arcs here.

The Two Roles of the Beginning

The beginning has two roles: a structural one and a functional one. Here, I present a way of thinking about the first act’s plot points that may help you reconcile the need to hook the reader with the need to portray the so-called “normal world” of the story.

Stretch Tension to Maximize Suspense

Do you take us to a point of conflict and then, rather than allow us to see it play out and get all worried about the outcome, you summarize it or just resolve it quickly? Stretching tension means you lengthen the scene but also make it more gripping. Don’t push the action off-stage or rush through it. Linger on the most tense moments of the story to maximize engagement.

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