Thursday, January 22, 2009

A Reading Fool

I haven't been on a reading bender like this in years. Love. It. It reminds me of summer vacation when I was a kid and the minute school's out you know there's nothing between you and all those lovely books you can't wait to read.

I've been reading a lot of YA, which isn't surprising since I have a YA in the mental hopper at the moment. And a lot of fae stories, which is a bit of a surprise. My guess is that I have one of those gestating down in my subconscious' depths.

Sadly, there have been a handful of books I've put down about 25% of the way in. I'm hoping once this initial reading frenzy has subsided, I'll be able to enjoy more leisurely reads. The problem I run into with each of these books that I've put down is that there is no escalation in tension, which is the third scenario I referred to in last week's post.

I have discovered that I read first for voice, then character, then plot, but really I need all three to keep going. Even if the voice is there and I love the characters, chances are if I don't get a sense of forward movement or tightening tension by about the quarter way mark, I'll put the book down. Not always, but often. Yes, I realize this reflects poorly on me as a reader. However, I'm trying to turn it into a lesson I can take back to my own writing. :-)

The thing is,it doesn't have to be bang up action, but some sort of tension, a sense that things are about to get worse for the characters, that forces are gathering just outside their vision, that they're about to walk into a trap, that something is going to happen and it's going to make things worse in some way--it can be either emotional or physical. Some forward momentum. The funny thing is, even if a book stars with a bang or tense action scene, it still has to escalate to keep my attention; it can't be a one note drum beat of the same level of tension throughout, even if you start out high, you need to leave yourself someplace to go.

So now that I've figured that out, I need to go see how it applies to my own works in progress.

And in very happy news, I finally heard back from one of my beta readers on Theo 3. It doesn't' suck! Yeay!


Breezey375 said...

I have to say the line about summer vacation and the nothing between you and books made me laugh!
I still wait for breaks from college to dive into books I've been saving all semester.

Robin L said...

Breezy, I've been surprised at how the school calendar shapes my life, even when I'm grown. It's probably because I had kids, but I always feel like my new year begins in September when the school starts up again, and summer always feels like a more fallow, relaxed time.