It’s a question I used to ask myself. What will hook my readers? What will keep them reading? What will send them away happy? Or mad? Or thinking seriously about something that they hadn’t previously thought about?
When I was a young writer, I kept a scrapbook of other writers’ good openings and endings, and used them as models for my own writing. After all, these openings and endings (and the bits in between) had worked for me. They’d hooked me. They’d kept me reading. And they’d left me with a smile on my face or a buzz in my brain.
But then, as the years went by, I realised that I didn’t really need the scrapbook. All I needed to do was to write an opening that captured my interest, a middle that held my interest, and a satisfactory ending.
I couldn’t know what my readers would want to read. (Ninety-nine-point-something percent of my readers were people I’d never met and was never likely to meet.) All I could know was what I would want to read myself.
So now when a young writer asks: How can I know what my readers will want to read? I tell them: You can’t. Just write what you would want to read.