Friday, March 19, 2010
Can't. Stop. Reading.
At some point, each of us has come across a book that has grabbed us by both eyes and not let go. We’ve fought to put it down, and failed horribly. They’ve left us walking into work with dark circles under our eyes. Forced us to spend our lunch hours tearing through as many chapters as possible. Turned us into complete addicts.
Twilight did this to me, and though I loved them, it wasn’t the stellar writing – it was something else. Hunger Games is another that kept me up at night. Let’s go old school – Bridget Jones Diary. So what is it about these books? Are the pages lined with crack?
I went back and looked at some of the books that have done this to me to see what it was that made me cling to them, and choose reading versus a night out on the town.
Characters you genuinely care about – Becoming emotionally invested in a character, will keep you coming back with every spare minute you can muster. You know if it ends poorly—you will need to take a few days off to mourn. A character that you relate to and desperately want to see succeed.
Cliffhangers at the end of chapters – We naturally want to close a book at the end of a chapter versus the middle, but when the chapter ends with a car wreck—we HAVE to know who lives, who dies, and how the heck’s the Ferrari. So, we start the new chapter, and darn now we are back in the middle. Keep reading. Now, the body is missing. Well, where did it go? Next thing you know it’s 3:00 am, and you’re hiding in the closet with a flashlight trying not to wake the rest of the house.
Reverse Arc – A story has a natural arc. Each chapter is generally designed the same, building to the climax and then slowly bringing the reader back down. The reverse arc throws all that out the window- starting with action, covering slower parts in the middle of the chapter, and planting you back at the top of a climax at the end, propelling you into the next chapter.
Forget the drapes - Now, I personally have a tendency of skipping past the pages of beautifully written prose discussing the tiny butterfly pattern that is woven into the blue wallpaper. Couldn’t care less. I want to know where the heck did Hot Guy go, and is he the one holding the bloody knife? Maybe that’s just me, but a book that leaves a reader quivering for more is not doing so because of the mass amount of description. I couldn’t tell you what Bella’s room looked like, but I can tell you there was a vampire hanging out in there.
This can not end well – A storyline that appears to have a definitive ending, one that will crush your soul, but the writer gives you the tiniest inkling of hope--will pull you to the end. You may be reading it while peering through your fingers, but you are reading forward. I give it up to Stephanie Meyer on this one for sure. Breaking Dawn! Hello! ‘Nuff said.
Make ‘em laugh – A book that is just fun to read will make a reader cling to it, and heck, even come back for more. It’s not the same Zombie response of, “Must finish book, have to finish book, Boooook.” But the pages flick by just the same. You know the saying – time flies when you are having fun – well so do the chapters. Bridget Jones Diary was one of the first books that did this to me. I hoped things would work out for her, but laughing out loud alone in the dark is why I could not put that book down.
This list is not complete, but I think it’s a good start. So you tell me ...
What are some other things that glue you to the writing? Do you use any of these page turning techniques in your writing? What’s a book that grabbed you and wouldn’t let you go?