Tuesday, April 03, 2007


I'm currently reading Coral Moon by Brandilyn Collins. I have hit the point of the book that I decided to call "the threshold". I am at the place where I want to finish the book. I am looking for time to squeeze some reading into my day. I could plop into a chair (with the lights on, BC ain't for chickens, lemme tell ya) and push through to the end.

There seems to be a tipping point in a novel where a reader is sufficiently invested that they really want to get to the end. I know there are different types of readers. When my wife picks up a book on Saturday, I may as well head off to do something else, because she's the type that sits down and reads until she's done. Maybe this type of reader doesn't have a threshold. However, I definitely am the other type.

I find I can put down a book if I get busy or distracted and lose track of it if I haven't hit the tipping point. It's not a burning priority, but if I cross the threshold, then it is something I won't let go of until I finish.

A lot of this has to do with book structure. The classic "3 act" framework draws you in for the 1st act, builds tension in the 2nd, and races to the climax in the 3rd, ideally. It probably is natural to have the momentum to finish in the 3rd act, and I bet a lot of times that is when I hit that threshold.

It seems to me that drawing people to that threshold point is a key to writing compelling fiction. There certainly is a different "threshold" at the beginning of a novel, where you either engage the reader or they give up reading it. To me, the point I am talking about is the spot when I realize the biggest enjoyment out of the novel. I can think of novels like Relentless, Germ, Orphans of Chaos, In High Places (on the docket for tomorrow's blog tour!) that I could really tell I hit that point, and I wasn't ready to put them down. Then there's a book like Qi that I really wanted to like, but lost me. I read less than 100 pages and recently packed it away, disappointed in wasted money.

Of course, the best books will draw you past the threshold from the get-go, and is the most desirable for an author to aspire to. I can think of two in the last year that did that for me: Scoop and Abiding Darkness. No coincidence that Scoop was my top book for '06, and Abiding is leading the pack for '07. I wish I knew the magic formula for creating such a threshold. It boils down to great writing at the end of the day. I will be watching for this "threshold" in other books from now on, seeing if I can get a handle on this aspect.

No comments:

Post a Comment