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What Makes Me Keep Reading

I recently blogged about what makes me put down a novel, so to be fair, I thought I’d post about what makes me keep reading.

  • A great opening in which something unusual, unexpected, contradictory, or violent happens. For example, in Secret Dead Men by Duane Swierczynski, the third sentence caught my attention. “..but a couple of kids organized and impromptu club with a mandate to experiment on her corpse.”

  • Intriguing characters who are unusual, unexpected, contradictory, complex, or compelling. From the first page of the same story: “Then again, what do I know? I was a dead man impersonating an FBI agent.”
  • Characters who don’t fit the current clichés. I like cops who aren’t cynical, FBI agents who aren’t workaholics that can’t handle relationships, private investigators who aren’t alcoholic loners, and women who are soft on the outside and tough on the inside.
  • Complexity! I like parallel plots and interwoven stories and multiple points of view. And if it all comes together in a way that surprises me and makes perfect sense, I pick up the next book by that author.
  • Passion about a subject. I like politics, religion, and social issues in novels as long as it works for the story and doesn’t overwhelm it
  • Multiple plot points and plots twists that leave me thinking: Wow! Stunning but believable
  • Moderate levels of crime and violence written with sensitivity to the subject, the victim, and the reader
  • Just enough detail (setting and character) to make the story real. I like Elmore Leonard’s approach: Only write the parts that people will read.
  • Believable relationships of any and all kinds
  • Crisp, fast-paced, realistic dialogue
  • Fast-paced narrative with a great balance of dialogue and action in which the surprises just keep coming

What did I forget? What makes you keep reading?