Friday, July 28, 2006

Characters vs Plots

I am too exhausted to read. This is an extraordinary level of exhaustion, one I never believed possible. As a result, I'm making a mental list of books I'm going to read soon as I arrive home in NZ. Help me out - what are some good books you've read recently?

And just generally, what makes a book good for you? Is it the characters, the plot, the humor? For me, I think it'd have to be the characters. You can have a great plot but if the characters don't grab me, I probably won't pick up the next book (if it's a series).

Only one book I recently read broke that rule and still grabbed me by the throat - The Da Vinci Code. For me that was a very plot-heavy book, with less emphasis on the characterization. But it worked. However, it was very much an exception to the rule. I'm more likely to remember people, not plots. For example, I love Laurell K Hamilton's Anita Blake series because of the very well defined characters - from Nathaniel (whose character arc is getting mucho interesting) to Jason to Edward. (I haven't read Danse Macabre yet so no spoilers please!)

Because I tend to concentrate on the characters, it makes me crazy if they act out of character just to advance the plot. Right now, I'm halfway through a Desire novel and I'm loving the bad-boy hero. I'm hoping like mad he doesn't magically transform into perfect huband material in the second half cause that would take all the fun out of it.

So, what hooks you into a book/author? And what drives you crazy (open-ended question *g*)?

10 comments :

katie g. said...

Earlier this week a coworker told me that the best way to decide how long you should give a book a chance is to read to the page that corresponds to your age (i.e. I am 27, so I should give it to at least pg. 27). I know this doesn't have alot to do with your question, but I just finished The Shipping News and I had to really buckle down to enjoy that book. I guess it is just important to give things a chance.

Nalini Singh said...

Katie - that's so interesting and true - I think I sometimes give up on books too quickly esp when I have less time to read.

From a writer's point of view, the starting pages are supposed to suck you in, so I've always got that at the back of my mind too.

Having said that, I have enjoyed books that I read a bit, put down then picked up ages later, only to read all the way to the end. So it depends on mood, too, I reckon. Sometimes nothing will satisfy, while at others, I'll devour everything.

Christina Phillips said...

Characters, every time. And yes it drives me mad too when the protags act out of character just to advance the plot! As a writer, I often find I have to swerve off my original course, because what I had in mind to happen at any particular point just wouldn't ring true with my hero/heroine's personality. Frustrating! But more fun that way!

Milady Insanity said...

Actually, what I heard was that you subtract your age from 100 and that's how long you should give a book.

Characters do matter to me. Mind you, I do choose books by plot, but characters matter more.

I'm picking across genres, since I don't know what you want to read, so:

Simon R. Green's Something From THe Nightside
Alma Alexander's The Secrets of Jin-Shei
Alex Barclay's Darkhouse

It's spring when you get back home, so nearly summer and I'll throw in a beach read. HelenKay Dimon's Viva Las Bad Boys. :)

Cynthia E. Bagley said...

Characters... and then humor... For some reason I confuse characters and plot. If characters do something out of character, I end up setting the book down and never reading it again. It hits a sour note.

:-)

Yvonne Lindsay said...

I don't have any formula for what drives me to continue reading any book except for the suspension of disbelief. I've recently read Kay Hooper's CHILL OF FEAR (I LOVE that woman's writing). I was mesmerised from page one and yesterday, on my precious day off work when I usually write, I reclined on the long sofa in our sitting room, with the sun streaming through the window, and I devoured that book. Fabulous read as far as setting (which was a character in itself), plot and characterisation.

I truly hope that I write books as compelling as that. You know--the ones that make a person shift their day just so they can read it. (Hmmmm, kind of like Nalini's writing really...)

Yvonne Lindsay said...

P.S. Nalini, I love your dot on my cluster map! Thanks, sweetie!

Nalini Singh said...

Hey Christina - I totally agree! My characters surprise me all the time and I love discovering all the new things about them.

Oooh thanks for that list Milady. I'll definitely look those up.

Cynthia - yep, yep, yep. The sour note can completely wreck an otherwise good book.

Yvonne - thanks :) And I have that book on my tbr list. I read the one before it and was completely hooked. Kay Hooper's one of my auto-reads.

Lis said...

A really good book that sucked me in lately is ANGELS WITH ATTITUDE by Michelle Rowen. Great characters, plot and dialogue. Definitely a keeper.

If I can't get into a book, I usually give it two chapters then put it aside and try it again down the road. Sometimes its the mood I'm in and it reads better later.

Nalini Singh said...

Hi Lis - thanks for the rec! I've heard great things about Angels with Attitude.