I haven’t decided what my next Learning from the Masters lesson will be. So for today, I’m asking a very important question…
What draws you into a story?
I recently abandoned a popular book a few chapters in. In my brief review I wrote:
I don’t like any of the characters, the writing isn’t great, and I have no interest in what happens next.
That got me thinking about the things I need to get me invested in a story.
They are, in no particular order:
1. I need good writing* This didn’t always used to be the case–as a child, I was addicted to Sweet Valley High–but as I’ve grown as a reader–and a writer!–I’ve become much more discerning.
I’ve been called a “book snob” before. I’m perfectly fine with that title. Life is too short to read bad writing.
*An exception to this: If the writing isn’t that bad and there’s enough tension going on in the story–I may keep reading. Case in point: I flew through the Twilight books, despite their less-than-stellar prose. The reasons why have to do with the next two points.
2. I need a relatable protagonist Note: this doesn’t necessarily mean likable. I didn’t like Bella Swan–but I could absolutely relate to the experience of that first, all-consuming love. That made me keep reading. Gone Girl is another great example of this. Even when I had my suspicions about Nick, I was on his side. I cared enough to know what was going to happen to him.
3. Tension This is the biggest thing of all, and the thing that kept me flying through the Twilight books despite the number of times I rolled my eyes. I need to need to know what’s going to happen next. Whether this is through setting up a mystery that needs to be solved (à la this book), bursting-at-the-seams sexual tension (à la these books), or just caring so much about the characters that you need to know what happens to them now (this one)–that tension must be present to keep me reading.
How about you? What do you need to get invested in a story? As a reader and a writer, I’d love to hear…