There is nothing better than coming home from work knowing that a good book is waiting for you. There is also nothing worse than knowing that you have to put that book down for the night so you have at least a minimal amount of energy for the next day. A good book is like having an addiction. When you first open the book again, you breathe a sigh of relief and feel thoroughly happy. When you do not have the book in hand, your mind always strays to it, and you wonder how fast you can get the laundry done, or how fast you can eat dinner so that you can get back to it. The book is something that you know will always be there when you get home, and it won’t let you down (hopefully!).
Ask every avid reader, and I think they would all agree that their dream job would be to read books all day, every day, and get paid for it. If that job is out there, where do I apply?!
What this means for authors:
Most people read books to unwind from the day or to escape into another person’s life for a bit. Readers want to be swept up into the story, and taken away on a journey, whether this journey causes their hearts to beat fast from fear or excitement, or if their hearts swell from witnessing a blossoming romance that they knew was just bound to happen eventually. Successful stories cause the reader to think and feel differently than they do in their daily lives. This is why we as readers enjoy stories so much. They are different.
Readers do not want to have to think long and hard in order to draw some conclusion that the author vaguely insinuates. We want to be lead gently towards an idea or plot point. If you want the reader to figure something out before revealing it in black and white, then give clues, make a path that allows us to follow you to the inevitable reveal without just throwing it in our face. Readers like to guess what’s coming, but we need solid pieces of the puzzle before we can have any sort of notion. All in all, I think it is okay to lead your readers along a little. We aren’t stupid, but you (the author) know every little detail of the plot and how it’s going to end, whereas we do not. The only thing we can go on is what you choose to tell us. Be thorough. This tells us that you care enough about plot/character development that you are not willing to leave anything out, even if you think it is unnecessary. Nothing bothers me more than vague statements that don’t allow me to gain any real information or sense of direction about a character or plot.
Take your time. We can wait for the climax of the story if it means that we get tons of great details and plot points to enjoy before the big action takes place. I personally love it when small details at the beginning of the story turn into big plot points at the end of the story. I tip my hat to authors who can think and plan that far in advance, and it gives the reader another little jolt of excitement. Details that add up will make the height of the story that much more engaging and meaningful if we have had lots of time to get to know the characters and understand why they did what they did. Short books and short stories can absolutely be just as excellent, but I like knowing that I have a thick stack of pages ahead of me, so that I can really invest.
First, start by creating an engaging character. Just the character. Give him or her a backstory and create a present world for them. If your character is someone that you’d want to learn more about yourself, then you’re on the right track. Sorry to say, giving a character a name and a hair color is just not going to cut it. Readers will not be interested. Once you have a character, create a setting for them. Then, create a reason for how they got there. Eventually, the details will start to fill in. And it’s okay to jump around when creating the basic plotline. The key is to be engaging. Make us want to read your story.