Thursday, May 31, 2012

What Speaks to You?


Interesting article in the Huffington Post about what qualities in a novel pull you in. How different people are attracted to different voices/themes/characters.

I need an emotional content, something at risk, a person I find interesting even if unlikable. What about you?

21 comments:

Anonymous said...

If it is first person I am looking for a voice that draws me in - three that come immediately to mind are Owen Parry (Ralph Peters)'s Welshman Abel Jones, Alan Bradley's Flavia de Luce and Josh Bazell's Piertro Brwna.

If you have that I will follow you almost anywhere.

Jeff M.

Ben said...

Contrast. I need clashing characters and clashes within characters too. Also, I have a weak spot for heartless stuff. Roger Smith's crazy ride to the Heart of Darkness DUST DEVILS would be a good example

Dana King said...

An interesting character, absolutely. I don't have to like him, though I shouldn't loathe him, but I have to want to see what happens to him.

And voice. I'm as interested in how a story is told as I am in the story.

Al Tucher said...

Been mulling this one. I can't get into stories about hardcore, committed criminals, such as Mafia members. I connect with people who put a foot wrong and land in trouble, because that can happen.

Ron Scheer said...

Parks' essay is really intriguing. It may begin to answer a question like why the "traditional western" became such a narrowly defined genre, there being an audience of some size sharing the same family system. And the passing of that family system accounting for the diminishing audience for the genre.

George said...

Strong story-telling will win me over every time. Excellent First Person narration will delight me. Raymond Chandler and John D. MacDonald knew how to do it. But, bad First Person narration can turn me off in a minute.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Voice is really important, isn't it? But a voice that pulls me in one week might not the next. Some of the voices I liked most years ago now seem stuffy, twee, overly masculine, etc. I think what we look for in a book changes in general. Poirot, for example, seem ludicrous to me now but as a 20-something I found him fun. Likewise Travis McGee seems too perfect--a trait he shares with several current protagonists. The plot must be very good indeed to balance a shallow character or a dull one.

pattinase (abbott) said...

You really do have to want to spend time with a first person POV. It's almost like taking on a new friend.

Yvette said...

Great topic, Patti.
I love a first person narrative best.

And I must have someone to like or, at least, root for. I cannot abide certain topics so I won't even bother with a book that has 'em no matter how well written.

That's about it.

P.S. I'm still in love with Poirot or maybe it's David Suchet...nah, I remember falling in love with Poirot when I was a kid reading the books and I guess I just never fell out. I still enjoy the books.

Yvette said...

P.S. P.S. Hope you're doing better these sunny summer days, Patti. I feel for you, kiddo. :)

pattinase (abbott) said...

I find Miss Marple more credible. He just seems so...mannered.
Yes, better. Thanks.

Deb said...

Oddly enough, I was just thinking about this yesterday because, for the first time in ages, I read a recently-published book--Richard Ford's CANADA, which is narrated by a 65-year-old man looking back on pivotal events that took place when he was 15. The narrative voice is very spare, but it pulled me in from the terrific first lines ("First I'm going to tell you about the bank robbery our parents committed. Then about the murders which came later."--Tell me you don't want to find out what happens next).

pattinase (abbott) said...

Love Richard Ford. Am waiting for that from my library and so glad you liked it. And what a great beginning.

Prashant C. Trikannad said...

Patti, all kinds of novels pull me in. That doesn't mean every novel I read does. Characters work best for me. If I like the character, I usually like the novel. I often endear myself to the characters in a novel rather than the other way around. The other quality in a novel that pulls me in is a happy ending, a sort of "all's well that ends well" finish to a story.

Anonymous said...

I like Ford too but I'm not sure about this new one.

Mannered, yes, but I read Poirot first and have always preferred him. But then, it has been many years since I read them.

Jeff M.

Rob Kitchin said...

Dark, gritty, strong dialogue, dry wit. And something needs to happen! Throw in a good sense of place, some cultural/political/social insights/context and nice prose I'll be hooked. Don't need the full set, but it's sure nice when it happens.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Reminds me of my trouble with a story I'm working on right now. I have the plot-and a grim tale of Detroit life it is, but the characters haven't sparked yet. I came into the story backwards somehow.

Margot Kinberg said...

Patti - Interesting question as ever! I need something to engage my brain. Something I want to know more about. A character I care about is a definite added bonus.

Charles Gramlich said...

I watched the prequel to The Thing the other night, and I didn't care much at all about any of the characters, but I generally liked the movie because it had lots of cool effects and imagery. I can enjoy that kind of show, but it's not the kind I truly remember and will watch over and over. Carpenter's "The Thing" not only had great effects, but it also had really well defined characters and I got to know them in such a short time. That one is truly memorable.

Kent Morgan said...

I've been waiting for the new Ford, but picked it up yesterday in a bookstore and after looking at it put it back. While I have most of his books I haven't read anything since The Sportswriter. So clearly he doesn't grab me. Randy Wayne White with Doc Ford and John Sandford with Lucas Davenport and more recently Virgil Flowers pull me right into their books. So I guess it's the character.

pattinase (abbott) said...

About 60@ of what I read is so-called literary stuff. So I am very comfortable in that world. But it is a different world. I noticed that today when one of the Millar reviews called attention to how slowly things progressed. Maybe that is one of the biggest difference between so-called and genre fiction. The plot is so key to genre and so much in the backseat in literary.