Okay, I hate to admit this, but I started reading Gena Showalter’s The Darkest Night, the first novel in The Lords of the Underworld series, and I’ve found it seriously addicting. I bought it because it had a Greek myth base as its premise, and I love Greek myths. I’ve kept reading it, clicking the page button on my Kindle at a furious pace, because I’m hooked on the characters and the storyline. Now, I like to think that luscious language, depth of character, and intriguing ideas rivet my attention. And they do. But obviously, some good, old-fashioned lust and violent emotion can keep me turning pages, too.
I recently finished The Debt Collector series, 9 novellas by Susan Kaye Quinn, and those held my attention with original ideas, page after page of tension, and cliffhanger endings. You know the strategy–end every chapter with a hook. Her nine novellas could be used as textbook examples for that. Ilona Andrews’ urban fantasy novel, Magic Strikes, kept me up nights by upping the stakes with each and every event involved with the secretive Midnight Games–to-the-death matches that aren’t supposed to take place, but do. Placing a protagonist in peril always increases tension and guarantees that pages turn faster. And every reader knows that each battle until the last becomes harder and harder to win, escalating to the final showdown.
I’m still a fan of the solid, traditional murder mystery. Those keep me hooked by offering glimpses of clues, a red herring here and there, and tantalizing false leads. I don’t need to have the protagonist in mortal danger. I just want to solve the mystery before he does. (Am I competitive? Maybe a little).
There are lots of ways of holding a reader’s attention, but after considering the novels I’ve read this summer, I still think emotional impact is one of the strongest. Plots have to hang together. Tension has crank so tight, the reader can’t put the book down. But I’ve been working harder to include emotion in each scene I write, either subtly or like a sledgehammer. It sure keeps me involved in the characters I read about and the repercussions of their choices. And judging by the success of Gena Showalter, who uses it extremely well, I’d say it affects lots of other readers too.
P.S. I’m excited. I have two, new Babet and Prosper novellas that will go online this month. There’s just something about that witch and werebear. Or maybe part of it’s River City’s voodoo and magic. They’re just plain fun to write!