The 5 Page Turning Must Haves

When writing my novel I tried to impart my reader-self into my words and ideas. I read somewhere that when asked what we want to read the answer isn’t always congruent with reality. However, we can look back at the stories we’ve loved and those we couldn’t finish, remembering what clenched us verses what bored us. So I thought I would write a list of things I love and explain why the opposite has me abandoning books.

Character Interactions

As long as the characters laugh, conspire, debate, gossip, flirt, tease, or complain together I’ll enjoy them and their friend/villain relationships. Though, if they are constantly whining, being selfish, placating, faking, or always quiet I’ll find a more intriguing book to read. If someone asked me: what is your worst noise?  My answer would be whining, so I don’t want to read 300 pages of it.

Inside Information

A redeeming quality for the above negative character interactions is usually insider information. For example: she whines intentionally as a ploy to secretly swipe his stuff while he’s fixing her problems; he’s being selfish to keep her at a distance because he’s not good enough for her; she’s placating while looking for weak points in his guard’s schedule to break free; he’s faking his enthusiasm to spy without being caught; she’s quiet in public but extremely vocal and fun in her head.

Interesting Life Events

When a character is experiencing something new, different, or unexpected, I am excited for them and enjoy the interaction. However, a book slows considerably for me when the characters are only repeating normal everyday events. For instance, walking in the garden – for the tenth time − where the most exciting incident is a new route back to the house; escaping the tutor to spend the day at a local zoo; or spending the majority of the time in the same room or house; I can live that life – I’m not intrigued enough to read about it too.


Something has to happen and often. I’ll read maybe 50 pages before I start skipping − looking for the unusual to enter the book. It can be something huge like natural disasters, murder, theft, or a disappearance; yet, it can also be anything abnormal: a door keeps opening, a character’s emotions spiking from fear or paranoia, the villain shows up somewhere he/she isn’t supposed to be, or as small as being late to work. Even if I don’t agree with the decision to enter the dark abandoned house, as long as the character is doing something interesting I will keep reading.

Cheering For a Character

Not caring what happens to any of the characters will have me putting down a book − fast. The worst for me: the character intentionally gets in the situation and then complains about it nonstop. It’s like, hey you stowed away on an all-male ship so quit complaining that the dirty men are aggressively flirting; or you chose to walk through the portal you were warned against so I don’t really care that the green aliens don’t like you.

Let me know what you must have in a novel!

A.G. Zalens

3 thoughts on “The 5 Page Turning Must Haves

  1. The B-Word | A Place That Does Not Exist

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