Every once in a while I find myself reading a book that leaves me less than satisfied, yet for some reason I can’t put it down. The characterization is lacking. The plot is not riveting–maybe just shy of the perfect page turning pace that’s needed to dazzle. Perhaps there are gaps in the world building that, if filled in, would have made the story more fascinating. Or the narrative jumps too quickly, with less than smooth transitions.
That there are imperfect stories out there is inevitable. Tastes vary to begin with and not every book is the right match for every reader. But that’s not what puzzles me. It’s when I’m reading one of these stories, honest with myself that it’s not really jazzing me, but for some unnamed reason I keep reading it. And if it’s part of a series, I work my way through the series to its end. There’s so little time and so many fantastic books, how could I devote so much of it to novels I don’t love? Yet, in these special cases, I do.
What’s that unknown X factor that keeps me reading? The story concept maybe? Just enough of all of the above story pieces that make me want to know how it all ends? The hope that, eventually, the wonderful potential I see simmering on the page will deliver on its promise? I am capable of putting down books I plain don’t like, so it’s not the stubborn reader phenomenon. A good enough book might keep me reading, (not every book can be a superstar) but why buy the next in the series? Why crave wanting to know what happens and why do I get that tingly feeling when I find out the next book has been published?
I am oddly comforted that this happens and I support other authors in their struggle to succeed. Perhaps some future reader of my own books, less than enamored by my stories, will stick with me. Maybe long enough for me to evolve in my writing and produce the story that’s just right for them.
So what keeps you reading when the story is not stellar? What’s your X factor? Do you ever feel a strange magic in a book at the same time you know it could have been far better? Tell me. I want to know.