As a reader, I’m not so sure. Perhaps it’s the countless books I’ve read, or had read to me, over the past sixty-nine years, but I struggle with these new guidelines. My latest peeve, the one that prompted me to write this post, was a book written by four of the most popular writers in Christian fiction. I was excited when I saw the book on Amazon and put it to the top of my reading list. The story had to rock. These authors are as popular as snowflakes in winter.
But shortly into the story, my snowball burst. Except for the last section, written by an author who delighted me, it was one of the hardest to “keep reading” books I’ve ever read. In the first three sections I felt like I was dangling in that zone between sleep and awake. Nothing anchored me anything or anyone. I remember the characters only because they were the same as those in the final section. Which brings me to my pondering. Where does lean end and anorexic begin?
The first section, that should have anchored me into the story, read like an outline. Whoever’s pov I was in felt like a pine box. Try as I would, I could not find a comfy spot to curl up in and let the story take me to some far and distant land. Instead, I was in a world that sped past me faster than my surroundings when I’m riding the tilt-a-whirl at a local fair.
To be fair, some of the old classics can describe a flower in a field in so much detail, I’ve forgotten why I’m in the field by the time I see exactly what the author saw and felt. And who really cares if it’s a coffee or a tea stain on the white tablecloth, unless it’s a mystery you’re reading. But, fluff gives me an option. Over the years, I’ve become very good at skimming. But in this day and age, that’s not practical either.
What I need is something in between. I want to know my protagonist, where she lives, what she likes, what she doesn’t, and what she wants bad enough to write a book about. I want a subtle description of her that allows me to fill in the blanks with my own imagination. I don’t want a block of white houses described, but if one is brown with a red horseshoe on the door, my interest is peaked.
I understand how age and time can dictate writing styles, but for me, they have gone bi-polar. Older stories tweak my skimming abilities, while many newer ones leave me frustrated because I can’t find the link between the dots. When I find a story that flows like a river, ripple after ripple, around and over obstacles and finishes in a waterfall, my toes curl up in delight, right back to my heels.