Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Secret Engagement

What keeps you engaged in a book?

Oh, I know the front cover might have enticed you to pick it up. Or maybe it was what you read on the back cover. Or maybe it's an "automatic buy" because you love the author's other books. But what keeps you turning the pages, staying up late at night to finish a chapter, and leaving the laundry piled beside the washing machine just so you can find out what happens next?

Recently, I recommended one of my favorite books to a co-worker who is also working on her master's degree. I was a little worried when I loaned it to her because we have very different tastes in many things. I thought there was a good chance she would not be as enthralled as I had been with this book.

I gave her the book on Friday, and on Monday she appeared at my desk with a scowl on her face. "If I fail anatomy this semester, it's going to be your fault. I cannot put that book down!" We launched into an intense discussion about how the author had sucked us in. For me, it was the perfect recipe of character, plot, and detail. For my friend, it was voice and the eloquent writing style.

How about you? What keeps you in the book?


RK said...

Good post! For me the characters, the situation, the world -- all of that has to be good enough to suck me in, make me forget everything (including meals). A few authors who've managed to do so:

Suzanne Collins with her Hunger Games Trilogy
Christie Craig with her madcap romances

Lisa said...

I'm a compulsive reader. Usually, I can't finish the day if I haven't finished the book I started. (I read really, really fast). So basically, I give an author 10-20 pages. If I like it I keep going. If I'm unsure, I read the last 5 pages. If that seems engaging, I finish. If not, I move on. Mostly, I think, it's gotta be the characters. They have to be people who seem real, people I want to cheer for.

Callie James said...

I'm most definitely character driven. If I'm not interested in the characters (I have to care about them), then I'm not interested in the storyline, no matter how fantastic it might be.

Louisa Cornell said...

I tend to agree. Make me feel SOMETHING about the characters, something strong and I will keep reading. Even if I think "What a jerk!" or "She is so cold and cruel!" if you make me feel something that strong I will keep reading to find out why and to watch them learn to be better.

Jeanie said...

Sexual tension will suck me right in every time!! If there is charisma between the H and H, I'm hooked. I also enjoy humor, especially the slightly dry kind, like you can find in Loretta Chase's books or a romance by Lisa Kleypas. And whimsy. Love zany characters, like Grandma Mazur and Lula in JE's books. Oh, and alpha males. Like me some strong mens.

Cari Hislop said...

I find it important that my empathy or humor is engaged by the characters, but almost more important is the narrating background voice of the author.
I find if the writer buts in too much and tells me things rather then letting the characters tell me I'll chuck it even if I love the characters. I find it almost unbearable to read the author-narrator using adverbs. All of that should go into dialogue or be left out.

pensees said...

You've got me so curious. What was the book that you recommended???