Saturday, March 21, 2020

What Draws You Into a Story?

Just like that well-known actor I’m baaaaaccck! In January I was on vacation in Mexico and in February I was trying to reclaim my brain from all that sunshine, sand, and surf and a shot or more of very good tequila. And then came the downside which we are all dealing with in our own ways, and what better way to pass the time than read and write. So far, I must admit to more reading than writing, but here goes.

Our Round Robin topic for March is: what draws you into a story? Even though we authors are encouraged to write stunning back blurb, I am often disappointed when the blurb and the content don’t quite match up. It’s the same with covers. How many great covers have attracted you to a book and then the content in no way has lived up to it? I am a lot savvier now when buying books on Amazon as I ignore the covers and take advantage of the ‘Look inside’ feature.

First of all, does the writing grab me? Never mind the content or genre, do I want to read my way through the sample? Does the author use strong verbs and build a picture? Is there a question to be answered? Two totally different books are one of my childhood favourites, Black Beauty, and John Wyndham’s The Day of the Triffids

Anna Sewell’s Black Beauty begins: The first place that I can well remember was a large pleasant meadow with a pond of clear water in it. Some shady trees leaned over it, and rushes and waterlilies grew at the deep end.

Even as a child I remember thinking, why does Black Beauty remember this so well? And, after all these years, it says a lot for the writing and the content as to why I recall those two sentences so clearly.

John Wyndham opens The Day of the Triffids with: When a day that you happen to know is Wednesday starts off by sounding like Sunday, there is something seriously wrong somewhere.

OK, John, you’ve got me. What is wrong?

Strong characters will also grab and keep my attention. From my youthful bookshelf I recall Lorna Doone, Jayne Eyre, Heathcliff and Cathy, and Tess of the d’Urbervilles. There was Captain Ahab and Moby Dick, the whale being as much a strong character as the Captain, and who could forget Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler? What about Atticus Finch in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird? More recently Lee Child’s Jack Reacher has grabbed my fancy, as has Walt Longmire from the pen of Craig Johnson.

I may write historical romance but my tastes, as you may tell, stretch far and wide. If the characters are strong enough, I want to know what their motivation is. I will ride the roller coaster of their highs and lows, knowing that the tension in their stories will come to-hopefully- a satisfying conclusion. If there is a logical flow to the story, varying sentence lengths to make the reading experience easier and few, if any, clich├ęs, then I am a happy camper.  

Visit these other authors to see what grabs their interest.