Thursday 23 February 2017

Thoughts from a Winter Break

For the first time in  years I didn't take my laptop away with me. Never, ever, again. I returned to over a thousand emails! Three hundred or so found their way into junk folders so I checked them first. I usually do it that way round cos then the ones that got misplaced are in the right folders when I get serious but hey, that many?

And then for the other seven hundred. Of course some of those were also rubbish but setting my spam filter higher just seems to syphon off more 'good' messages. A lot of the rest had to be filed in the right places so I could deal with them later, where deal is going to mean an awful lot of reading, critting, submission checking, but I'll get there eventually.

I say eventually cos going away hit one of my addictions; I'm a compulsive reader-for-the-fun-of-it. Make that a binge-reader? Once I start reading for time-out, as it were, I can't stop for quite a while, especially if I get hooked into a series - I have to read the lot. Which makes holidays rather dangerous as regards getting the more serious stuff done. I confess I also don't necessarily read 'worthy' fiction when it's for relaxation, although to be fair to self I stop reading pretty fast if something is actually badly written, usually in a few pages. But yes, I do read stuff  that isn't the best literature, or the most 'significant', 'meaningful', 'instructive' etc.

So what's the lure? Characters, every time. Every book I finish has characters I can't walk away from, whether they're mainstream or genre. Simple as that.

Plots, you say? Yes books need plot. Indeed I suspect publishers put that top of their lists. And I do look for a plot to be credible. But characters come first. I can tolerate a plot that isn't entirely credible before I can tolerate a character that does something 'out of character'.

Plus it's character that pulls me back to reread a book once I already know how it ends. Wanting to know how a story ends will only hook me once. It won't drag me back for a another visit.

To sum up:
bad writing - instant turnoff
consistent plot - credibility is necessary, but it doesn't always have to be perfect.
but the development of vivid, credible characters are, for me, the root of all good story telling.
Are you the same? One easy check is to identify which books you return to again and again?

You are free to argue, but honestly I don't see myself changing that opinion any time soon.