Rachel Aaron made an excellent post about Story Velcro – the art of “unputdownable” writing through careful and tight layering of hooks.
Let me just say – very few writers write as well about writing (…say that after the third martini) as Rachel Aaron. She has keen observation and scientific rigour and she applies it to the business of writing ruthlessly. There is a lot to learn from her blog! So I’m sure that she is absolutely 100% right about how to make your writing “unputdownable”.
Here’s my sticking point: I’m not sure I like “unputdownable” books.
That sounds ridiculous, and of course it is: I, like everyone else, want a book with heaps of layered interests, with a fascinating world and intriguing characters having enthralling relationships as they pursue outrageous goals. I want there to be heaps in the story to chew on, and for it to be an endless buffet of delights.
But (to continue my food metaphor!) I need time to digest. I need to pause, and reflect, and make connections and considerations and extrapolations in my head. I need to do this to be satisfied with a book. I do not stay up all night reading. I generally don’t even read for hours at a stretch at any time. If I can do that, if the book just slips that easily into my mind, I generally find at the end that it slips right out again. It’s like chocolate; sure, you keep reaching back to the block for one more square, it’s easy and compelling to eat, but once you’ve eaten the whole thing in one sitting, you don’t really feel great about it.
With a truly magnificent book – the sort of book I am going to tell everyone to read – I can find myself stretching out the reading. Using parts of my “reading time” to just hug the book to me and think about it. I ration it out to myself like… well, like the finest and richest chocolate. It’s not about finding out what happens next as quickly as possibly; the experience of reading the book, of unwrapping each new tidbit of delight, is part of the magnificence.
So possibly what I’m ruminating about here is not “story velcro”, but an over-focus on pace. And I think my ongoing food metaphor is going to serve me well here: if you’re writing fast food then maybe pace is king, and maybe there’s nothing wrong with that. I duck in for a quick McBurger sometimes myself.
But I don’t tell my friends about it (unless it’s really bad). I do tell them about that long, luxurious, eight-course degustation with matching wines and attentive but never harrying service.
Something to think about.