Monday, April 29, 2013

Books that Reel You In: Hook, Line, and Sinker

One of my favorite things to do is read a good book, but I have a short attention span, so it takes a lot to draw me in and hold my interest long enough to read past the first page, let alone finish a book. I’ve thought a lot lately about what it is that entices me to read an entire novel, and I’ve come up with a few things that captivate me as a reader that I’m trying to incorporate into my own writing.

  1. I read some books purely for the beautiful language. I may not be that interested in the story or the characters, but the language lulls me. For instance, reading Ally Condie’s Matched trilogy is like riding a raft down a gentle river, the way her words float across the page enthralls me. Crossed, the second book in the Matched series starts out “I’m standing in a river. It’s blue. Dark blue. Reflecting the color of the evening sky. I don’t move. The river does. It pushes against me and hisses through the grass at the water’s edge.” Notice how the words flow, smoothly, rhythmically, like a river. You can see it. Feel it. Hear it.
  2. Another thing that grabs me like a Pitbull and won’t let go is a unique , engaging voice. I just finished reading Supernaturally, the second book in the Paranormalcy series. The fun voice is part of what carried me through the first two books. It starts out “Oh, bleep. I was going to die.” Whenever the MC swears she says bleep. Cute. Original.
  3. Then there are those books I read simply because I adore one of the characters. And it might not even be the main character. Even more than the voice in Paranormalcy, I liked one particular character, who only popped up once in a while and is portrayed as bad, but whenever this character came on the scene, I cheered. In James Dashner’s Maze Runner, my daughter fell in love with one of the side characters and followed him through to the end of the series.
  4. Humor is another thing that compels me to read. Even though horrific things happen in Maze Runner, there’s a lot of humor in the dialogue, thoughts, and actions of the characters that tickled my ribs and made me laugh out loud. I especially enjoyed the made up swearwords like “klunk” and “shuck”. One hilarious character named Jorge cracked me up every time he opened his mouth.
  5. The story itself, the plot, can hook me and reel me in. Hunger Games is one of those books where the plot, more than anything else, is why I couldn’t put it down.
  6. My favorite books, the page-turners, have several or all of these strengths combined. Plot, character, voice, humor, great writing. Some examples of brilliant books I could read over and over again are: Goose Girl, by Shannon Hale, Jane Eyre, Lord of the Rings. The Poisonwood Bible, and Harry Potter.

So why do you read certain books? What is it about them that you find irresistible


  1. I completely agree with your list. All those things keep me turning the pages. One thing I would add is a tense plot. I love books where there is a lot at stake, where the author has really made me care about the characters and their problems so that I can't put it down because I have to make sure they're going to be okay.

  2. Thanks Erin. That's another good reason to keep reading. Suspense. Questions left unanswered. Danger. Etc.

  3. So many books in this post that I want to read! The Maze Runner, Goose Girl, I'm reading Crossed by Ally Condie right now. I agree with you though, I'm looking at these things thinking, yes, that's exactly how I feel. I love your posts because they always remind me of things I need to work on in my writing. Well done :)

  4. Glad my posts help. These are all books well worth reading in my opinion. They've all helped inspire me to hopefully be a better writer.