Hi, my name is Dwight Okita. I'm new here. I'd like to pose this question to book lovers. I write novels and I know why critics and authors like books. But I'm especially interested to hear what makes readers fall in love with books.
If it helps, be specific. Talk about the last book or recent book you fell in love with and why. Was it the characters (which one, why, at one point did you love them?). Was it the plot (what makes a plot work for you, pull you in, the situations, do you most like the beginning/middle/end?). Was it the voice that drew you closer like a siren singing in your ear? (the language, dialog, description, point of view?).
The reason I ask this is because I'm revising my second novel THE HOPE STORE. And I always want to improve as a writer. And I think the key is understanding the journey, the experience, that the reader goes through. How they experience the novel's pace, how they empathize with the hero's goal or dream or problem.
I'll give an example of something I fell in love with recently. Usually I don't like short stories because many of them seem to smart alecky and workshoppy and snarky. But recently I read short stories by three very different writers: Haruki Murakami (a Japanese writer of trippy surreal stories), Philip K Dick (sci fi writer whose short stories have become films like Bladerunner and Adjustment Bureau), and Etgar Keret (an Israeli writer of tiny stories that are charming and powerful).
But first I'd like to hear from you readers. Then I'll talk about one of these stories and why I fell in love with it. How's that?
Also, it'd be great if you can follow my blog "Long Day's Journey Into Dwight" in which I tell of my experience as an indie author. Self publishing, royalties, author collectives, kindle giveaways, reviews, blogging, etc. Thanks. Let me know if you follow me or add your email. Then I'll be happy to do the same if you let me know your blog.
My blog is: http://dwightokita2011.blogspot.com
I am an avid reader (and reviewer and hopefully soon to be author). I mostly read romances, though I sometimes delve into fantasy in my free time. If it is exciting, interesting or fun - then I'm hooked. If my emotions are pulled into it, it's the best. I need to feel my heart pounding in intense parts, cry at sad parts, get frustrated, happy, etc. I think the best way for this is to have believable characters react normally, even if the situation borders on the fantastical. The people need to be real. I also enjoy being pulled into a newer world (fantasy, historical, scifi, etc) where the people are real, but it's still an escape. I have no idea if this helps you or not, just my thoughts.
Hi Jennifer, thanks for sharing your thoughts on what makes you fall in love with a book. I can understand the wide appeal of romances. Everyone enjoys falling in the love. And if a romance is able to create that experience for the reader, that is certainly a great thing. Thanks for adding your comment.
For me, I think it's the passion in the writing. You can tell when someone has put their entire heart and soul into a book. It shines through in the detail, the characters, the dialogue, everything. Recently I've been reading Robert Sawyer's WWW series. I've never really been a big fan of science fiction but his writing has really turned me onto it.
As Jennifer said as well, the characters are important, characters who react and interact normally. Characters who build relationships with others, who have history and dreams.
But yes, definitely for me, it's the amount of passion that soaks a story which is important to me. Doesn't matter what the genre is, if you can feel the author's heart and soul pumping through it, then I'll read it. :)
Hi Rae, thanks for sharing your thoughts. I agree that passion is a key. I think that comes thru in their voice too.
Right now I'm reading Philip K Dick's stories. His stories are compulsively readable. He just has a way of telling a story in a way that makes me believe something important is happening here. He doesn't use any tricks. It's just his confidence.
In his story The Cookie Lady, he talks about this boy who goes to this old woman's house for cookies. Sounds normal, right? But each time he goes, the woman becomes younger, absorbs the youthfulness of the boy. Until finally something terrible happens.
Hi Dwight! This is a very difficult question to answer. I actually switched to another forum, thought about your question again and now I'm back to answer.
What makes me love a book, most definitely, is the voice or the tone. That is the most individual thing about any book. If the voice is convincing, then I'm sold. That's why I like it when the narrator constantly reminds us that he.she is present and that the perspective we're viewing the story from belongs to him/her. To name a few such books that I love: Lolita, the Jeeves & Wooster stories by PG Wodehouse, A Sport and a Pastime, Life of Pi, The Blind Assassin and The Wind-up Bird Chronicle. All have very strong first-person narratives, and the narrators are all mostly unreliable and very,very intriguing.
Hi Pooja, thanks very much for your reply. I also love the voice of the narrator. And unreliable ones are among my favorites. Some that come to mind: The Boy Detective Fails by Joe Meno. Crossing by Andrew Fukuda. Also enjoyed the story by Murakami called "UFO in Kushiro."
Do you have a blog I can follow? Are you a author as well as a reader?
I know I have fallen in love with a book when I realize I am going to miss the characters when I done reading. For instance, when I read Pride and Prejudice, I missed the characters so much that I went on to read a dozen sequels by different authors.
I'm drawn to both good writing and creativity, especially with sci-fi and fantasy. The language is a major factor for me. I enjoy books that can make philosophical or social points while still telling a good story.
I'm so glad that this is a featured discussion and many people are chiming in. Thanks Amy and Grace for your comments.
Amy, your point is well taken. You know you've fallen in love with a book when you know you're going to miss the protagonist. Good criteria. I've talked about why I like Philip K Dick's story. I recently saw a reading by Israeli short fiction writer Etgar Keret. His newest book has a story called "What Animal Are You." And I did fall in the with the protag who, like Keret, is a rising celebrity. Public television is doing a photo shoot at his home in the story. His little boy makes friends with everyone on the shoot, as well as the hookers who visit a neighbor upstairs. Finially the boy asks a newscaster what animal she is. Her answer is cruel. But the father's translation of her remark is remarkable.
Grace, I'm am starting to warm up to sci and fantasy myself. And I also love a philosophical POV inserted. The last example I'll give is a story by Haruki Murakami "UFO in Kushiro." What I love most about Murakami's writing is that the world he describes is a little bit like the one I live in. Except for one or two things! All I'll say about this story is the that hero's wife suddenly leaves him and he decides to take time off from work. And colleague asks if he'll deliver a package for him to his sister in Hokaido but doesn't say what's inside.
This kind of writing is offbeat and magical and scary and hopeful. I guess those are some of the elements that I love in the books I enjoy reading. And those are elements that I try to weave into my own books. Prospect of My Arrival is my first novel. The Hope Store is my novel is progress about the first store in the world to sell hope over the counter.
It's clear to me everyone loves books for different reasons. Does anyone love the way and a plot can pull you onto a rollercoaster ride? Unexpected twists and changes of heart? Plots that look like they're going in one direction and end up totally somewhere else?
I like unexpected plot twists, but I don't like cliffhangers. One of the biggest problems that I have with reading George R. R. Martin's books is that he'll leave a character in mortal peril then switch points of view for the next hundred pages while doing the same for each character. Suddenly it's four in the morning and I have to chug considerable amounts of coffee not to fall asleep at work the next day. I like books that keep me engaged but at the same time can be enjoyed at a more leisurely pace.
I didn't read much sci-fi and fantasy until I started my blog, but now I'm hooked. I wish that both genres got more respect in academia, because there's some great food for thought there.
Sometimes I feel sad when I finish a book because I enjoyed reading it so much that I don't want it to end.
I love unexpected twists. This will sound lame, but James Patterson does this to me in every book. In fact, in one of his books, the protagonist suddenly became the villian that the protag had been fighting for 200 pages! I was amazed. I had to go back and reread the last ten pages just to make sure it really happened. I think this was in Lake House, but I can't be sure right now. I'll let you know!
Amy, that's interesting about the hero becoming a villain. Sounds interesting.
I just started following your blog. Do you think you'll add contemporary books to your Booket list?