How To Keep Your Readers Up At Night

Today we have a guest post by Shannon O’Hara. Shannon was kind enough to share her insight into how to create a book for loss of sleep and dark circles under the eyes. Please help me give a warm welcome to Shannon.


As a writer, you want to make an addictive book, which will keep your readers up at night, unable to put the book down. Do you remember all the occasions you read a good book, the thrill of the journey it took you on?

A feeling you want to replicate.

What is the secret to engaging your readers enough so that they can’t stop turning the pages?

Here are 5 ways to keep your reader from sleep

1. Take away your protagonist’s weapons, team, and defences

There is nothing like reading about a vulnerable character, stripped of everything that helped them or kept them safe. Your readers can be hooked by needing to know how the main character will get out of this sticky situation. Situations like these can also make your readers start to root for these individuals. And you want your readers to get attached. Here are few examples:

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas (1844)

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

2. Create a new problem at the beginning of the chapter, then don’t solve it until later

Sprinkling a little bit of disaster gets your reader’s minds rolling, thinking in overdrive what the possible outcome could be. Tease your audience with incoming issues and let it fester. This keeps them on the edge of their seats in wait for juicy new information associated with the new problem. Here are a few examples:

Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer

Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut – 1963

3. Bring in a new character whose presence upsets your main character

This is an opportunity to disturb the balance. To let the readers see the protagonists exhibit new emotions, fears and behaviours. With what you knew about the behaviour of the main character turned upside down, there is room for situations to occur that your audience could not fathom. There is a chance for ruin.

Think about the consequences of introducing this new character will have on your story moving forward. Here are a few examples:

A Carnivore’s Inquiry By Sabina Murray

4. Change focus

You want to get your readers invested. How about focusing on a secondary character with a problem arising from their new angle. Including information, the protagonist has missed- and then don’t revisit that character for a few chapters (pages or alternating between scenes). Build suspense with the information they found. Create wonder of how the story will move forward without knowing what was just about to happen. Here are a few examples:

Six of Crows (Six of Crows, #1) by Leigh Bardugo

Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass, #1) by Sarah J. Maas

5. Surprise!

You want to shock your audience. But how could I do that?

  • Uncover a secret only the readers have witnessed OR only known to the characters
  • A u-turn of events
  • Something they were better off not knowing
  • A new character with rising problems

Someone You Know by Olivia Isaac-Henry

Yesterday by Felicia Yap

Keeping your audience invested enough to have the unstoppable urge to keep turning the pages is all about doing the unexpected AND giving the reader exactly what they have been waiting for.

Reading books that do just that will help give you inspiration for how to recreate this moment for your own readers!

Good luck with your writing journey! Let’s start a conversation in the comments.

Do you agree with this article? What do you do to keep your readers engaged? Have any tips you want to share?

Shannon O’Hara, fiction writing blogger at Discovering a Writers Voice. Advice helping YOU write that book. With hints of working with mental illness and or invisible illness when writing stories. Come take a look at our Resource FREEBIES and more for your writing journey!

Follow me on Pinterest for updates.

Guest Post and New Insight