I’ve attempted to read the Lord of the Rings on three different occasions and on all three occasions I have not made it through. The reason why dawned on me during a recent night on the town when Gretchen asked, “What keeps you engaged in a book?”
The answer was immediate and definitive: “a conversation tone which moves the story along.” This means I’m not huge fan of complex description or wandering plots because HEY I’M IN HURRY HERE AND MY TIME IS VALUABLE. I’m impatient with my reads and this means there are huge categories of books which poor the socks off me.
For example, Lord of the Rings. What if I told you a story in the following fashion: “I’m a regular guy with a regular job. My parents took good care of me and I have a dog named Ralph who loves me as well. Except, one day, everything changed. But, first, let me tell you how I built my house for the next two hundred pages. You’ll notice this really doesn’t have much to do with the actual book, but, boy can I build a house. Let’s start with the roof…”
Such deviation from forward momentum in books frustrates the hell out of me. One of my favorite authors, Connie Willis, did just that in a very painful read called The Doomsday Book When I realized she’d succumbed to the art of talking about nothing in particular, I walked out of my house and threw the book in the lake. Bitch.
Now, Gretchen’s answer was vastly different. She’s about character development and if plot happens to tie things together reasonably well, great, but the characters had better leap off the page. For myself, as long as the character is talking and moving things along without pages of introspective, that works. A perfect example of this type of character is Spenser from Robert B. Parker. These books are defined by conversation characters and, oh yeah, there’s probably some type of mystery, but, who cares, Spenser is fucking funny.
Conversational character driven plot may not be your bag of tea. You might really like reading those one hundred pages on house building because, chances are, they actually do matter to the message being delivered by the author who really spent a lot of timing picking just the right kind of nails because they reflect on the socio-economic status of the character blah blah blah… next book.