Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Turning Pages

So I started Hold Tight last night, a novel by Harlan Coben. The man knows how to write.

I'm intrigued as to what makes a book a page-turner. I suppose it is different for everyone; what makes me stay up late at night reading might be just the thing to help you get some sleep.

I like it when my eyes can move down the page quickly. If I start to feel like Lawrence of Arabia crossing the desert just to get to the next page, I'm apt to be closing that book much sooner than later.

I'm not saying that every sentence and paragraph should be short, or that every scene should have action and high stakes, but I like things to go somewhere. More than two or three pages of character contemplation and I start to get uncomfortable. I'm moving around the couch, thinking about getting something to eat, thinking about the upcoming episode of Lost, thinking about thinking about something else besides this book.

Okay, okay, I know that characters need to have times of contemplation. There's plenty of cardboard characters out there moving from one car explosion to the next. I get it. But is it too much to ask to at least have the character doing something while he is traveling down memory lane?

James picked his nose. Yeah, that about summed up his life. Always digging for something out of reach, always getting his fingers into someplace where they didn't belong. And what had it got him? Nothing. He still had to jam that saline rinse up his nostrils and tickle his eyeballs with the spray.

If only he could go down to RiteAid and buy a saline rinse for his stinking life. Wash out some of these boogers. Some of the big nasties like Filbert Dilbert, his boss who was skating on over to his desk to tell him once again just how worthless he was.

Gross, I know. But look, this James character is thinking about how rotten his life is, but he's not just a brain in a chair. He's a dude with his finger up his nose. Nose-pickers are so much more interesting than people who pause everything to think about their life for five hundred words.


Harlan Coben has this figured out. His characters are always doing something, even if it's just walking across the room. I can see them thinking, talking, whatever it is. And he's good enough that he doesn't have to resort to nose picking to make his characters come alive.

Harlan Coben has me turning pages. Who has you turning pages?