He applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Black Scorpion, and reported the following:
From page 69:Visit Jon Land's website.and stood back up. The floor seemed to wobble beneath her, but she clung to her balance and stiffened her spine.Are you hooked yet? Wow, I am and I wrote the damn book, so it’s not like I don’t know what’s going to happen next. That’s the point and, also, why I love the nature of this post because every page needs to hook the reader: like page 69 above, make him or her want to know what happened before and what’s going to happen next. A reader standing in a bookstore and skimming to any page should be immediately grabbed. Indeed, the page 69 test applies to each and every page of Black Scorpion.
“You see what I mean?” the captain continued. “Run now, pirate, and you just may live another week. You picked the absolute worst ship on the sea to hijack.”
Raven jammed him up against the wall, pistol pressed against his forehead. “I’m going to kill you.”
Emotionless, Marmara glanced up at the barrel. “That would change nothing. You think I have a choice? I don’t do what they say, they kill my family.”
“What who says?”
“I answer that, my family dies too. So, pirate, make my day and pull the trigger.”
CHAPTER 13Carson City, Nevada
“And do you consider staging exhibition fights against mixed martial arts champions proper behavior for a Las Vegas casino owner?” Kern resumed, after clearing his throat.
“Durado Segura took exception to being asked to turn his title into what he perceived to be a joke. It was supposed to be a simple event carried out for charity, but Mr. Segura overreacted. Perhaps you should ask the two women trapped in the cage whether my intervention was warranted or not. And, if you don’t mind me asking, Mr. Chairman, what does such a thing have to do with my gaming license in the state of Nevada?”
Kern leaned forward, as if provided with the opening he’d been waiting for. “Everything, Mr. Tiranno, it has everything to do with that, since it indicates you’re no stranger to violence, does it not, sir?”
Easier said than done, of course, but how exactly do I do it? Two words: conflict and suspense. Every single scene (and thus page) is defined by conflict, no exceptions. If a scene lacks conflict, it either needs to be rewritten or deleted. That’s especially true for thrillers like Black Scorpion which rely on pace more than anything. My absolute, number one goal when I write a book is to make it impossible for you to put it down. Not at the end of a page or even a chapter. End every scene with a cliffhanger and begin every scene with a hook.
Page 69 above illustrates both those points while being driven by conflict, in the first scene between Raven and Marmara and in the second between Michael Tiranno (the book’s hero) and Robert Kern. But what was it Raven saw? And what did Michael Tiranno do that led to this hearing before the Nevada Gaming Control Board? To answer those questions, you have to read back and forward.
See, the Page 69 test closely resembles the John D. McDonald test. It was McDonald, creator of the brilliant Travis Magee books, who famously defined story as, “Stuff happens to people you care about.” Well, the John D. McDonald test in my mind postulates that you should have a sense of story on every page. A natural sequence of events leading organically from one to the next, making you wonder above all else what’s going to happen when you flip the page, as from 69 to 70.
So what do you think, did I pass?