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May 15, 2019

It happened again.

It’s not like I don’t get flashes of old man repeatability here at Fred Central.

Sure, I’ve repeated the gist of some of my articles. It comes with the territory. However, to blatantly pound in the exact same article so soon after doing so (November 2017), takes some incentive.

I read a lot of books I like, and most of them are okay. However, there are not many I read that I can hardly put down. These are the ones that are so good, I want to drop everything I’m doing to keep reading, to find out what happens next. They’re so addicting, I don’t want to stop to rest, eat, sleep, or get the important stuff done in my day.

So, it happened with a book I picked up last weekend. I’ve seen the book for several months now, but kept pushing it off, not really believing the hype of “One million copies sold,” touted on the cover.

While the premise sounded promising, a murder mystery taking place in London, which is always a nice and creepy setting for me since I’ve been there before, I’ve found a lot of Brit authors to be just okay. Why? Not all of them are there with point of view. There ARE exceptions.

This time I hit gold.


Week after week, I talk about writing. A lot of my subject matter deals with the things that bug me as a reader. In this case, the writer hits all of the standards I preach, at least the most important ones.

Point of view.

Getting to the point.

No extended flashbacks.

No foretelling.

An exciting rhythm to each chapter with a major and tense conclusion urging you to read on.

Some kind of payoff in the end.



I have to suffer to get there.

Normally, a week or so later, I’ll 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’ll take my time and “get back to it” when I can.

That’s the usual pattern.

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

It boils down to those pet peeves I mentioned above.


When the author controls the point of view with third-person limited, it keeps the characters on solid ground with no head-hopping, and is not omniscient!

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 do 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, 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.

In the case of the current book, the prologue is from the victim’s point of view and how she’s murdered. While some could argue this should be chapter one, I can take it either way.

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.


Just as irritating as present tense is foretelling. I cannot stand when the author tells me what’s going to happen. I’d much prefer to discover it on my own as the story develops. I hate spoilers!


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 watch the news.

Even so, even knowing or suspecting the protagonists are going to live doesn’t mean there can’t be other surprises along the way. There has to be ups and downs, of course. It’s all about how does the character get out of one pickle and on to the next? 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.

I like to feel good at the end of a story, not bummed out. I can get all the bummer I want watching the nightly news. I’m not one to revel in misery.


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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