Today’s blog post is a special guest post by Elaine Cantrell, a favorite of ours here at More than a Review. Read Elaine’s author page and our interview with Elaine, and enjoy this thought-provoking post from the author of  more than a dozen page-turners. Leave a comment to enter a book giveaway!

I don’t know of an author anywhere who wouldn’t like for readers to say that his or her book is a page turner.  Everyone knows what is meant by the term; it’s a story that you can’t stop reading.  You know you have to get up in the morning, but you don’t care because you absolutely have to find out what happens.  I love it when I find a book like that.

But what makes the book a page turner?  What has to be in it for me to lose sleep just to read it?  I’ve analyzed this thing, and this is what appeals to me.  First, the book has to use proper grammar and punctuation.  It turns me off and feels jarring when subjects and verbs don’t agree, there’s a run-on sentence, etc.  Naturally, there are exceptions to this rule.  Characters can massacre the English language all they like, but I have to have the feeling that the author is doing it on purpose and not that he/she doesn’t know any better.

Second, you’d better have a good hook if you want me to read the book.  I don’t have time to waste on books that don’t interest me. In The Sentence, I started the book with a newspaper article that I hoped would hook you.

Controversial Judge Marion Lowe shocked every person in his packed court last Wednesday when he passed sentence in the Clint Hayes case. Hayes, twenty seven, who works for Bud Parsons at Bud’s Private Club, was found guilty of burning Saved By Grace Community Church last April.

Originally, Hayes was arrested for arson. His fingerprints were found on a beer bottle in the church parking lot the night the church burned, but a sheriff’s investigation revealed the fire was caused by a cigarette that Hayes threw into an azalea bed. Authorities believe the cigarette caused the dry mulch around the bushes to catch fire, and the flames spread to the church. The building was a total loss.

 After consultation with Reverend Neal Amos, the pastor of Saved By Grace, Judge Lowe sentenced Hayes to six months in the care of Reverend Amos, who in effect will be his jailor.

Several questions immediately come to mind. Is that sentence legal? Is Hayes the kind of man you want in your home? What about the minister’s daughter?  She’s about Hayes’s age, so how will this affect her?

 Third, the main characters must be dynamic and sympathetic.  I have to like them and want things to work out for them.  I recently read a book by a famous author, but I didn’t like it because the heroine just wasn’t a nice person.  She made her living preying on grieving widowers and let her young daughter help her.  It was hard to care what happened to her.  The characters don’t have to be syrupy good, though.  Without human flaws the characters don’t seem realistic.  Rachel, my heroine in The Sentence is a little spoiled.  She isn’t too nice in this excerpt, is she?

Rachel’s voice ripped through a couple of octaves. “Apologize!  For what?   For letting you go with me?”

“No, for treating me like dirt beneath your feet. Christina is the one to blame for the punch, not me. She bumped me from behind. That’s why the punch spilled on you. It doesn’t matter how it happened.”

Fourth, there must be some suspense involved.  But I don’t read suspense, you say.  You still need suspense.  Readers should be biting their fingernails worrying about the outcome of the book.  Will the heroine win the hero’s heart in spite of a dreadful accident which left her scarred and reclusive?  Will the hero defuse the bomb in time?  Will he believe the bad girl’s lies?  Will she accept his child from a previous relationship?  Well, you get the idea.

Lastly, the pacing is important.  If it goes too slowly I lose interest.  I like a face paced story myself, and that’s what I write.  I’ve been accused of setting a blistering pace which is absolutely true.  Hmm.  Maybe I need to slow down a bit.  Maybe I could throw in a few sensory images.  Okay, you do need some sensory images, but like my friend recently said, “I just skip that part to get to the good stuff.”

Okay, I’ve given you my definition of a page turner.  Do you agree with me?  What’s your definition?   If you’re interested in my work you can check it out at  Hope to see you there.