Friday, June 3, 2011

Why Do You Read?

My last post about breaking down a bestseller evoked some comments I found interesting. It's really cool to learn about what different peeps like in a story. One comment, in particular, brought up this question for me, and I found myself thinking about it a lot.

Sarah Ahiers (Falen) left a comment regarding the tension in The Hunger Games. I had mentioned that was part of why the book is such a page turner--the tension has you tearing through the pages. Sarah brought up a really great point. In her own words:

"I actually felt there was too much tension. Yes, it kept me reading instead of going to bed, but i don't actually like that. I'd rather feel free to take my time and read something than feel forced to not put it down. That's just me though, i like a mid range pace."

I totally get this. And I'm so glad Sarah mentioned this. It seems like today writers are so pressured to create the high tension kind of story people can't put down. And don't get me wrong, I love a fast paced story that has me on the edge of my seat. But I also love the kind of story you can curl up and enjoy at your own pace, without a lot of action or tension.

Matter of fact, when I first started pursuing novel writing, I was dumbfounded by the requirements of having so much tension in a story. Now, I agree high stakes and conflict and tension make for a great story. But what about those of us who just love a good story?

I thought it was a great point Sarah made. And I open the question up to you. What are your thoughts? Do you need the fast paced kind of story like The Hunger Games to stay interested? Or can you enjoy a good story without all the tension? Inquiring minds want to know ...

BTW I'm happy to announce FLOAT has been released to eBook on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, & Smashwords. For more info on FLOAT the story, click here. Proceeds go to fund the FLOAT mission and encourage teen self-esteem.

Have a groovy weekend!

27 comments:

Elena Solodow said...

What I *love* is tension that's not high octane. Tension between two people in a very subtle way (i.e. Remains of the Day). The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle is a book that came to mind as I was reading this, because it was a very bizarre, plodding sort of book but you really, really wanted to see what it all came to. There was nothing that necessarily connected as a main plot, but each scene had it's own special flavor. It was a series of experiences that I really enjoyed, even if I couldn't see the whole picture.

Budd said...

too much tension would make me grip my kindle so hard it cracks. It wasn't the most tense book that I have read, I thought it was pretty balanced.

A. Lockwood said...

I love both. The Hunger Games was fantastic, but I also like books such as The Splendor Falls (Rosemary Clement-Moore) that are like a warm blanket to wrap myself in.

Rogue Mutt said...

Probably depends what genre you're reading.

LM Preston said...

I love the adventure in reading. It takes me on a mental vacation.

Margo Benson said...

I'm not keen on a story that is akin to one long chase. Yes, I like tension but I also like some gentle time and a little humour as that is how I see real life (and this works in fantasy too)

Sometimes nothing can happen....beautifully.

erica and christy said...

I gravitate to contemporary books that are generally not going to be as action-packed as the fantasy or dystopian genres. I think good characterization, showing growth, etc. in a real context can be just as interesting to read about.

I just read The Book Thief and really struggled with the first 200 pages, though - even though it was solid writing and I knew it would be a great book, the beginning was a bit slow for me and I had to force myself to stick with it.
erica

KatieO said...

There's a time and place for both kinds of books. I appreciate a book I can read in doses or chunks - the kind you can leave in your car and have handy when you're waiting in a parent pickup situation. I also like to be so immersed in a story with high stakes that I want to glue myself to the couch and stay there until it's over.

I don't think liking both kinds of books is mutually exclusive, nor do I think an author only has to write one or the other. I like a book I can put down, but keeps me thinking about the characters, happy to get back to them when I have another spare chunk of time...

Connie Arnold said...

Everybody has their own tastes in what kind of books they like to read, which is great for different kinds of writers to find readers! I enjoy some tension once in a while in reading but generally go for something gentle and sweet that makes me sigh or a mystery that keeps me guessing. Either that or something very inspiring.

Old Kitty said...

I guess it depends on the genre? If I pick up a thriller/adventure story I want fast paced action, non-stop!!! If I pick up something more literary then a quiet take on things is good too. Take care
x

William Kendall said...

I've yet to have read the Hunger Games, though I've been seeing a lot of references to it. Looks like I'll have to get hold of a copy.

Margo Berendsen said...

I'm so glad you brought this up! I've been thinking about this lately, too. I love high tension books, but I love slower paced stories too, and when I don't rush through a story, I actually get a lot more out of it!

Kittie Howard said...

It's great that you brought this up! For me, fiction is about plot. So much the better if an interesting setting anchors the plot, with a bit of movement among related settings, if needed, ie, a globe-trotting mystery anchored in London. Among the four (sometimes five, depending) basic conflicts, I think the author is doing great to work two solid conflicts into a basic novel. For me, tension is a moment that builds and leads elsewhere, sometimes to the open conflict the author wants, sometimes just for the page-turning effect. Tension for the sake of tension (which doesn't develop the conflict(s)) annoys me. I sometimes think too much tension hides a weak plot. It's the plot that should turn the page.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I like a good pace, but in a book, it doesn't have to be breakneck speed or action-orientated.

Kathryn said...

It depends on the day of the week, I suppose. Sometimes (most times) I love high tension writing, but it's nice to get a break every once in a while. Yay, FLOAT!

JEFritz said...

I love tension and I thought The Hunger Games did it great. However, I've read some tense books that were just blah for other reasons. Tension is good but it certainly isn't the only thing or the most important.

Susan Kane said...

Old Kitty is right--it depends on the genre. I like tension that develops until the breaking point, all through the book.

Carol Riggs said...

That is a very good point, here. Different people like diff things/genres--not everyone likes a breakneck speed; they read to relax!!

Sarah said...

It depends on genre, as many here have pointed out, and also on my expectations. In general, I like faster paced books and those with a lot of tension, because it keeps me turning those pages--and I love that feeling!

Dorothy Evans said...

Tension is a must - but that doesn't neccessarily translate to a break-neck speed.

James Garcia Jr said...

Hi, PK. I just need the book to hold my attention. I picked up the book because I wanted to be transported away. If it takes me a couple of days to finish or takes a week, I just need it to keep me interested.
People ask me what I hope my readers will say after they have finished my novel. I answer that I simply hope they have had a good time. Time is precious, and I would want to waste their's.

-Jimmy

McKenzie McCann said...

I want a book that gets in my head. I'm a sucker for good voice. Whether it's a romantic YA or a book about the psych ward, if it's engaging, I'll read it.

Norma Beishir said...

My early books were all about plot--one editor used to refer to me as "The Master Plotter." Now, I'm more focused on character.

Never read The Hunger Games, but will check it out. Thanks, PK!

Jennifer Jackson said...

It almost feels like certain authors have a gun pointed at them when they write. It's not far from the truth when you think about what they put into their stories and how far you can fall.

Tension should ebb and flow in your novel. It should be something in the back of the writer's mind all the time but could also afford to be put in the back of the page.

Keeping your characters in incredible high-stakes situations almost the entire time forces them to become more one-dimensional because your readers can't see them in their "quieter" moments.

Carla said...

Congrats on Float! I like a lot of tension, but I do NOT like a lot of violence, sex, or vulgarity. I think there's a lot of ways to make tension work for a good story. :)

Nas Dean said...

It depends on the genre we're reading. If it's a Mystery, I would read it before going to sleep, if it's a romance then I can leave it for the morning.
Congrats on FLOAT!

Leslie Rose said...

I love a book where the tension builds steadily until there is a "point of no return" where you can't put it down. I felt that in all the Harry Potter books.