Writerly Wednesdays

How to Never Bore Your Readers

The writer/novelist has one job. Never bore your reader.

You may think, I’ll add more romantic tension, or this manuscript needs more action and a higher body count. Adding key features from your genre may help. But there is deeper magic in a novel that keeps the reader from boredom—secondary additions to your plot line. These work with any genre.

Here are my observations.

  • Injustice. People desperately need injustice to be resolved. We come with a healthy sense of natural law installed on our hard drive. In your novel, perhaps a victim is seen as the villain. Or the lover is spurned through no fault of her own.
  • Irritations. Readers need minor irritations smoothed out. This can be simple, such as a character trying to accomplish a shopping list. Perhaps they can’t finish the dishes because someone gets in the way. Or something major, like an ankle sprain and they can’t jog before a race.
  • Poetry. In prose, don’t throw in lines of rhyming poetry unless you are Tolkien. Rather, take a moment to describe settings in unique and fresh ways. TS Elliot explores a horizon stretched out like a “patient etherized upon a table.”
  • Emotions. Unexpected emotions pull the reader in. For example, kindness from a child or puppy can pull at the heartstrings. Or someone seeing a random car accident can shock our senses.
  • Humor. Andy Weir tries to add one moment in every chapter that causes the reader to smirk. Sometimes, they’re so good, I guffaw.
  • Ticking Bombs. Alfred Hitchcock taught that a conversation at a table can be terribly boring. But add a ticking bomb under that table, and then every word they say is riveting. The threat of future disaster won’t bore your reader.
  • Caretaker. Your main character should have a hobby, something they love and are trying to do either to make extra money or for personal enjoyment—usually both combined. Caring for plants, animals, or a location such as a park allows the reader to worry about the plants and animals as well.
  • Chapter End. Every chapter should end with a cliffhanger or deep thought. It’s not so much that you excite the reader to keep writing, which the discipline usually does. Instead, you are actively engaged in keeping the work from boring your reader.

There are many ways that keep your reader from boredom. Gripped pages come from gripping plot lines.

Use these secondary tactics to keep readers engaged with your work.

Beliefs represented by individual authors are not necessarily shared by all members of ICW.


  • Peter Leavell

    Peter Leavell, a graduate of Boise State University with a degree in history and a MA in English Literature, was the 2011 winner of the Christian Writers Guild’s Operation First Novel contest and 2013 Christian Retailing’s Best award for First-Time Author, along with multiple other awards. An author, blogger, teacher, ghostwriter, jogger, biker, husband, and father, Peter and his family live in Boise, Idaho. Learn more about Peter’s books, research, and family adventures at www.peterleavell.com

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