As I look at the books on my bookshelf, I realize that they fall into three categories:
1) The unfinished, or unread books. They’re the ones that I never want to reach for.
2) The books that I’ve read and liked okay, but I wouldn’t read them again.
3) And the books I’ve read at least twice. The ones I reference frequently, remember, quote, and think about long after reading. The books that never stay on the shelf—these are the books that keep us addicted. These are the “Caffeinated Books.”
Books with caffeinated writing affect us, submerge into our subconscious, and blanket us with their mood. These are the books that seem to stimulate our central nervous system, make us alert, give us a sense of purpose and adrenaline. They hook us. Make us feel addicted to the pages, and rabid to read until the end. The effects of these caffeinated books haunt us when we’re away from the pages. We think about the book all day, about the story constantly and you cannot wait to get your next fix. How do these stories get laced with such addiction? I’ve narrowed it down to a few key angles. If I’ve forgotten any of your favorite factors that make up caffeinated writing, drop them into a comment below!
Bleeding Characters: When we read, we want to be drawn in by rich characters—characters that astonish. Complicated characters that can break our heart in one moment and then inspire us in the next. It is never ignorable when a character’s soul bleeds. We’ll notice if characters feel half empty. They will appear on the page, but nothing about what defines them will be. Without including the grit that makes a character passionate or apathetic, a character will be forgotten and the story will not impact us. It is in the character’s flaws, their honesty, and their choices that make us swoon, make us shiver, cry, laugh and cringe. Writers must not forget to give every character individual attention. They should be in every way alive. They should be forced to face anguish, love, betrayal, and denial. It is then that the reader will connect and fain with them. Because we have felt the same, we will latch onto these characters and right then, at that moment, the story becomes more than a book. It becomes a secret window where we can glimpse another version of ourselves, another version of what our lives have been or will become.
The Neutral Voice: The books that hook are often stories with a quiet voice. The voice of the story should be as beautiful as it is unnoticeable. When we don’t notice the metaphors, references, opinions, and style, we are lost in the world of the book—the perfect place to be. The voice should offer more than we expect without coming across as preachy. The voice is there, but it is hidden within the world, the story, and the richness of the characters.
A Gasping Pace: There is nothing worse than reading a book and thinking, I don’t care about this. Get on with the story. My favorite books are written more like screenplays. In a screenplay, every single word has to matter. You have a limited amount of pages to draw the world and people that will take our breath away or tear our guts out. Not every part of every book needs to have non-stop action—comedic relief or serendipitous harmony are welcome interruptions. Just make sure those in between the action are still moving the plot, characters, goals, or conflict forward.
Now, let’s turn the platform over to you, Internet Souls! What books have you shelved and why? What type of writing is “caffeinated” to you?
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