How to make your story ADDICTING?

I spent all of last weekend binging all three seasons of Star Vs the Forces of Evil on Hulu. Yeah, don't judge me. Anyway, I haven't binged a show like this in years. Something about it, I just found flat out addicting. Gravity Falls did the same thing, and was made by the same people, so I know there's something in their formula that engages me on a level that most other shows, and even books, don't. I've decided that's how I want my books to be. That's not to say that I want to copy Star or GF, but to have that certain SOMETHING that grabs people's attention and leaves them desperate for next week's chapter/episode.

So what do you guys think? What kinds of things do you do to make your stories not just entertaining, but addicting to your readers?

There's really no clean cut answer, but I would say just write it well, and if your passion shows, you'll attract the readers at some point.

As someone who follows your main two stories currently, I definitely think you're passion shows and you have a good sense of direction even if the narratives can get distracted sometimes. Juryokine in particular has a hard to put down-vibe more than Gray Ranger, but it's all more a matter of reader opinion.

I don't know if it's great to dwell on making a story "addicting" necessarily. Just because a lot of these litRPG stories get views and votes because they're supposedly "addicting" doesn't mean I'm following that formula. I think it's more about what you want to see done, and doing that, and ultimately attracting your audience in the process.

I think there's something to be said for knowing how to pace reveals, and nailing good character chemistry.

Some people like to "hang out" with fun characters, and want to see more of them. Some people like to uncover a mystery and pour over the lore and make theories. Some people like drama, be it political backstabbing or romantic tension. Some people like to read characters escalating their powers, shonen hero style. So, if you're going to try and hook people in that soap opera way of stringing them along with breadcrumbs of entertainment, you can try to formulate that way.

That said, that's not really the same as writing a good novel, and I think your strength is in writing a good novel. I agree with Hejin, your passion shows, and you have a clear vision, and I think that's going to make a stronger impact that chasing a formula.

I mean, try it if you really want to give that format a shot, but I think if you've already got a successful style, the audience will stick with you.

Also, see this thread:

"that's not really the same as writing a good novel"

True, but it doesn't mean that you CAN'T write a good novel that way. Especially when it's a serial, since uploading according to a schedule provides the perfect excuse to string people along with cliffhangers and things like that. Not to say that every chapter needs to have a "OMG IS HE GON DIEEE? Tune in next week!" kind of ending, but... yeah, I'm losing my train of thought here. Puppies, nachos, pro wrestling. What?

If it's addicting it's probably not good for you

Addiction is just a cheap tactic to make weak stories stronger.

I don't understand the logic here. If something is good enough to keep your readers coming back for more, how does that make it a weak story?

Addiction is the state of feeling the need to comeback not because its fulfilling, but because you have a compulsion. Some people get hooked on fairly shallow content, because the authors know how to manipulate the drip feed of goodies just enough that people looking for the cheap thrill keep coming back. Granted, that's harder to pull off with writing, I feel, but it's the loot box of serials.

Depending on making the story addicting, rather than making it good, I think that's where the weakness comes in. You might hook an audience hungry for that thrill, but will it really impact them the way a true masterwork will?

even the weakest flakes of cocaine will have crackheads tearing up a car carpet floor so they don't miss a thing

"Some people get hooked on fairly shallow content, because the authors know how to manipulate the drip feed of goodies just enough that people looking for the cheap thrill keep coming back."

I don't disagree, but is there a rule that more skilled authors can't use those same things to make something better? Any idiot can break a window with a hammer, but nobody would say that hammers can't be used to build cool things in the right hands.

Not at all, mining that addiction is a skill in itself. Several very successful serials are well written and manage to keep the readers hooked for very long projects. One might say it's the real trick of the long form serial format.

Really, it comes down to finding what your audience wants and pacing it correctly. With web fiction, it seems like character drama/angst/romantic tension, growing power levels and fights, and extensive world building are the key. Give them characters they care about who suffer through relatable personal challenges yet can also have fun moments, and then keep stringing the reader along with tidbits of new information as they go through the story.

What I'm getting at is the idea of a sunk cost fallacy. That's what that sense of 'addiction' is to a lot of readers, whether they're following a book series, TV seasons or web serials. More skilled authors won't use the various tricks some serial writers use to prompt that sense of 'addiction' because it's orthogonal to good, concise writing.

There's a couple smaller things you can do to make stories more grabbing. Though, obviously, the main thing is just, write a damn good story.

1) Introduce the world gradually through the story. Throw characters into your world in medias res, already established, everyone living their lives already. The author doesn't know the "rules" and sometimes neither does the protagonist, but the important thing is showcasing all of these interesting story elements, then one by one, slowly folding back the curtains. The first Star Wars is a fantastic example of this. So is the first season of Steven Universe. Most good stories with amnesiac protagonists follow this template by necessity, but you can also do a story where the protagonist is also "integrated" already.

2) Short, quick-burst chapters with good hooks. Don't, like, constantly end everything in a cliffhanger obviously, but make your chapters something someone can read during a break between classes, or on the train to work. This is the one I like to emphasize the most. Update frequently, but don't do gigantic fifteen-page chapters all the time (Worm is the big exception here, but people do constantly complain about how hard it is to get into the story because of its initial length). Ramp up the chapter lengths as time goes on, if necessary.

3) Make sure the beginning is absolutely as strong as possible. Knock it out of the park. You want everything in your story to be top-notch quality, definitely, but we're writing serials so realistically, not everything will be a hit. Just make sure the beginning is good enough that people are hooked before they even catch up on the archive.

4) This goes along with 1), but-- Make a story worth discussing. Think of all of the biggest nerd-media stories in recent years. Homestuck, The Force Awakens, Gravity Falls, Worm-- they all had elements that were not just interesting and engaging, but were so captivating that they inspired countless hours of discussion, theorizing, and speculation. What's going to happen next in the story? What are the hidden secrets peppered within? How are the characters we love going to turn out? How are the characters we HATE going to turn out? What would this story's world be like if I put my OCs in it?

Yeah but more than any of this, just write a good story.

I just rather make my stories entertaining without having to make it addicting. That's just not a goal I have.

I think what makes a story addicting is several things.

1. Questions that lead to other questions. It's important to have something we the reader want to know, but we also have to have the satisfaction of the question being answered only to discover another question that we want to find out. A question can be something as simple as will the Main character save the kitten to something more elaborate like a mystery of who done it, but questions drive people to turn the page. We are curious people. We want to know what happens next.

2. Growth. I think a part of what makes litRPG genre so interesting is watching the character growing and actual seeing concrete evidence of their growth. Whether its the character growing stronger, getting more confident, richer, etc. We want to see evidence of growth.

3. Investment. We have to care. No matter how good a story may be if we don't care about the characters we're just not going to stay. That doesn't mean we have to necessarily like the character. Maybe our investment is seeing a person get their comeuppance, but we have to care to keep following the story.

4. Toy boxing - the article here is really good at explaining this -

I call it worldbuilding, but basically, offer a world that allows the reader to play in even after they stopped reading for the day. Most popular franchises have this. For example, people are constantly talking about what house they would fit in for Harry Potter, or which pokemons they would train, or what stat or class they would be for a litRPG. I think that's important to making a story addicting.

Hope this helps.

I've been seeing the term "litRPG" around a lot lately, but I've never heard of it before. Is that just another word for a webserial?

No, a lit RPG is a specific type of story/webserial. It's basically a story that about characters in a RPG world. I do not know all the critera for what makes a lit-RPG. I personally don't read it because it's not my thing, but a lot of people enjoy it.