IT'S THE PEOPLE, PEOPLE! by Hannah Rowan
Sometimes I hesitate to start reading a book I know I'm going to really love because I know I'll get so caught up in the story I'll stay up way too late reading "just one more chapter." I'll have to make excuses to my family about why the meatballs are blackened or the clean clothes haven't arrived in the drawers.
But the other day I was gathering books to return to the library when I picked up one to ask my husband if he had finished reading it.
"I started it, but I just couldn't get into it," he said.
I'd had the same reaction.
It was a book by an author I normally enjoyed. The blurb made it sound intriguing. Yet, after a few chapters I found I couldn't quite remember who the characters were. It wasn't grabbing me at all. I had no problem abandoning it to go read my email or even take out the trash. Not my usual reaction to a story!
Nothing was really wrong with the book. It wasn't the proverbial "throw it against the wall" moment when the characters did something so absurd I couldn't manage to suspend disbelief. I wasn't so overwhelmed by life that I couldn't concentrate on fiction. I simply felt as though I were slogging through mud, trying to get to the next chapter.
Oh, the guilt! Because somewhere in the back of my mind I guess I believe that once I start reading something, I'm obligated to finish it.
But why? There are hundreds of wonderful books out there just waiting for me to start turning the pages. Why force myself to finish something that's not delighting me?
Yet it bothered me. What was it about this book, and some others in my past, that made me not care how it all turned out?
It's the people, I suddenly realized. Be it zombies, were-creatures, sweet little country girls, big city cops, spies, cowboys, or space aliens, the setting doesn't matter as long as the author makes me care about the people. I don't even have to like them, but they do have to intrigue me.
So even though I didn't finish reading her book, I'm grateful to that author for making me take time to think, and to realize a very important lesson for my own writing.
It's the people! The plot may be crazy as all get-out, but if I care about the people, or make my readers care about the people, the book won't be returned, forlorn and unread, or placed on a donation pile without so much as a cracker crumb lodged between the pages.