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A compelling mystery must engage the reader in solving the mystery, and the best ways to do so are to 1) start the mystery off quick, 2) capture attention with consequential stakes, 3) increase tension, 4) keep the reader guessing, and 5) finish strong.

With an awesome opening sentence, Marks not only introduces the inciting incident, but creates a storm of wondering questions for the reader,

If you only give your readers one conflict after another without tension in between, you are in danger of exhausting, and maybe even boring them, to the point that they lose interest. Tension turns the page.

Framing your story with a STORY QUESTION that gets answered by the end of the novel works because it adds forward momentum, keeps your reader wanting to turn the page, and–since you delay the final answer to the question until the end–builds tension

The strongest novels have main characters who not only want something but want something with serious stakes involved. In All the Impossible Things, Red’s stakes are whether she will ever have a home that truly fits.

Guest post by Colleen Riordan Middle grade readers are deeply curious about the wider world and fascinated with the creative “what if” possibilities presented by magic. They often want to understand how the magic works, in order to imagine how it might fit into their own worlds. When creating a magical world, it can be […]