Keep your characters moving and engaged in some meaningful pursuit or mission and your readers will be swept along too. Add in just the right mixture of adrenalin and tension and you’ll have those readers feeling like they’re surfing the break of a wave or hurtling down a double black diamond run at Whistler.
The author’s goal? Pages flipped so fast so as to risk paper cuts!
When I look back to my prolific reading years, those wonderful years back in high school and university and especially those deliciously long summers in between terms, I recall novels I devoured like popcorn: Ludlum’s Jason Bourne novels spring to mind, but so do James Clavell’s Tai Pan and Shogun and Colleen McCulloch’s The Thorn Birds, not to mention almost all of Robert Michener’s epic novels.
These memorable historical novels not only rocketed to the top of the bestseller list during their hey-dey, they’ve proved their staying power by withstanding the test of time.
I think one reason these novels endured is because we, as readers, repeatedly found ourselves immersed in strange and exotic lands populated by utterly unique and engaging characters. One little ‘push’, right at the outset, and the author not only set “the story” in motion, but also the reader, hurtling us back in time to the time and place where these wonderful historical novels came to life.
Did you read Tai Pan?
Who amongst you could resist the wicked entanglements, romantic and otherwise, that threatened to ensnare Clavell’s rugged hero, Dirk Straun (now there’s a name) as he charted a course through the treacherous South China Seas?
A different kind of ‘motion’ to be sure, but equally compelling and just as apt to keep the reader turning the pages into the wee hours of the morning, in an effort to find out ‘what happened next’.
If you’ve been following my posts, you’ll know that lately, I’ve been doing a little travelling of my own. When I posted last week, it was Dinosaur time in Drumheller, where we visited with our grand-daughter over the Canada Day weekend.
A few days later we found ourselves back in British Columbia, but still in motion, this time aboard a BC Ferry heading up to the Sunshine Coast to trudge across pebbled beaches and scramble through bramble choked lots in our continued quest for a new home, (or at the very least a place to build one, even though the very idea of such a project causes our hearts to thud with fear).
We’re trying hard to imagine what life would be like in seaside villages with names like Sechelt and Gibsons and Pender Harbour, or tucked away in Halfmoon Bay or Secret Cove.
But that was last week.
This week, we’re once again in motion, once again back on a ferry. And once again I am tapping out this post on the keyboard of my iPhone (apologies to all for the typos) as we set sail from Departure Bay in Nanaimo, heading from Vancouver Island back to Horseshoe Bay, the ferry terminal just a few miles up the road from where we live in West Vancouver.
As we near West Vancouver, just off the port bow, red barked Arbutus trees cling to the craggy shores of Bowen Island. We’re returning from yet another house-hunting trip, still dazed and confused.
Motion accomplished, but alas, mission unaccomplished, for we still have not found a home.
But that’s all part of the adventure, isn’t it?
As the ferry continues past Bowen Island, we motor past the high bluffs at Whytecliffe and I suddenly remember that James Clavell lived right there, right up on those bluffs in the far western reaches of West Vancouver. Just minutes from the Horseshoe Bay ferry terminal and only a few miles from where I live now (at least for another 42 days, until the moving truck arrives).
I know this to be true because one of my friends, when still a child, lived right next door to him.
After I remembered this, I did a little research. Clavell supposedly wrote a novel while he lived in West Vancouver, though I do not know which one.
Perhaps even Tai Pan?
Now wouldn’t that be marvellous!