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December 6, 2017

Week after week, I talk about writing. A lot of the subjects deal with the things that but me as a reader. For the past two weeks, I read two books I couldn’t put down. These are authors that always have that effect on me. Why? They write to the standards I preach, at least for the most important ones.

Point of view.

Getting to the point.

No major flashbacks.

Some kind of payoff in the end.



I have to suffer to get there.

A week or so later, I may finish the book with an ultimate smile on my face, but I had to work for it. It’s not like I neglected other things to dive into the pages to keep reading. I took my time and “got back to it” when I could.

What’s the magic formula that makes those other rather rare ones a breeze to get through?

It boils down to my favorite pet peeves.


When the author controls the point of view, keeps it solid third-person with no head-hopping, does not write omniscient, I’m there!

To me there’s nothing more annoying than trying to keep heads straight, or find an author that can’t keep from playing hopscotch with characters within scenes.

Many of those books I can’t put down have multiple characters. The difference is that when they’re up to bat, so to speak, I know it and it’s their spotlight and nobody else’s.

That’s the difference!


There’s nothing that makes a book more work than an author who can’t get to the point. When there’s no action or story movement because the author has to delve into every bit of minutiae about the character’s feelings and motivations and life history before every single movement, well…

It shouldn’t take six chapters, or fifty pages to walk across the street.


To me, there’s nothing that kills story momentum more than major flashbacks. It’s okay to have a paragraph or two about something in the past.

Or, a prologue.

However, to bring the story to a screeching halt and jump “forward” to the past right in the middle of the story, or to do it multiple times, like playing hopscotch with the timeline, drives me crazy!

A linear story is much easier to take than one where the author can’t make up their mind when they want it to take place.


There has to be a reason for reading this story in the first place. If I’m going to invest money and time in your work, there’d better be a good reason for it!

Don’t give me this “real life” bullshit.

I don’t read fiction for real life. If I wanted that, I’d go to the library and get a non-fiction textbook or something.

Even so, even knowing or suspecting the protagonists are going to live doesn’t mean there can’t be other surprises along the way. If it’s a series, of course the protagonist is going to live, and probably several of the sidekicks. So what? It’s a series. It wouldn’t be one without survivors.

In one-off stories, to me, there’s no bigger waste of time than a story with a bummer ending.


Add to that, bittersweet.

For some, that’s what they want.


Not my thing at all and not for a lot of others as well.


Folks, all these are things I’ve preached about here at Fred Central. Books I can’t put down are magic because the writing is addictive and has all the qualities I mentioned above. That’s what I try to accomplish in my own writing. So far, from the feedback I’ve received, it seems to be working most of the time.

I’m happy with that.

How about you?

Happy writing!

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