Last week I asked this very important question, and this week I’m asking something equally important…
What keeps you reading?
As mentioned before, I have zero problems DNFing (Did Not Finish … ing) a book. Life is too short for bad books.
There have been times in my life when a book started off promising … and then it was all downhill from there. I abandon these books, and if it’s not too late, return them.
(Usually it is too late because I buy books faster than I can read them and I currently have a stack of twenty in my TBR pile on my windowsill, all of which are past their return dates … but I feel no shame in pouring money into the publishing world).
So what makes a book worth finishing?
1. It needs to make sense You know what I love in a novel? Drama. You know what I don’t love? Melodrama. When things happen, they need to happen for a reason. (One way that art does not imitate life.) I get annoyed when characters hysterically overreact to something that’s not a big deal, just to “up the stakes”. When you up your stakes, do it in a way that really ups them. If you’re character’s upset, give them a real reason to be upset. In this same vein …
2. The characters need to remain consistent Note: this doesn’t mean they shouldn’t change. They should change throughout the course of the story, the protagonists learning their lessons and growing from them. But everything they do needs to make sense to who they are as a character and what they’re going through. An introvert can’t suddenly make a bunch of new friends because it’s convenient for the plot. She has to have a reason to do so. To paraphrase Stephen King (because I can’t find the exact quote): “Your characters’ actions should not only be expected, they should be inevitable.”
Again, please note: This doesn’t mean you can’t surprise your reader! You should surprise your reader. But then after you reveal what’s happened, your reader should smack themselves on the forehead and say, “Of course that’s where this was going!” Because of all your well-placed, super-subtle foreshadowing, of course.
3. You need to maintain the tension Of course, there will be high and low points to any story. The inciting incident, the turning points, the climax: these are all high points. And in order to have high points, you need to have low points. No mountains without valleys and all of that. But even in your low points–your “lulls”–there needs to be an underlying current of tension. You may not be in the middle of a chase scene, but there should still be enough going on in the story that a reader has to keep reading. No boring parts. Seriously.
You have all these things (and of course, the good writing) and you’ve got me as a reader to the end. What about you? Did I miss anything necessary to keep you reading a book? Let me know?
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2 thoughts on “What Keeps You Reading?”
I have no problems DNFing either. However I never mention the novels I do not finish, because I think a book deserves a full reading before I pass judgment on it. I’ve quit reading many very well-reviewed novels.