Lately, when I’ve been reading books I’m been getting impatient waiting for the plot to emerge. Why do I have to put in so much effort before the point of the book becomes obvious? Sometimes I feel like I give up too soon, and other times, I feel like I held on too long. I shouldn’t need a roadmap to learn about the characters, and what will happen to them. I know not every book’s plot is going to jump out in the first few sentences, but my new rule is that if I can’t figure out the point of the book after reading 100 pages, I’m not reading the rest!
“The Lovely Bones” was a book that grabbed me in the first two sentences: “My name was Salmon, like the fish; first name, Susie. I was fourteen when I was murdered on December 6, 1973.” That got me right away! I knew the main character was a young girl who was murdered, and the book was going to be about her murder and her “afterlife.” That story was intriguing throughout the entire book. I’m planning to read it again and I would highly recommend it!
But with other books, the plot is not so clear. “Rules of Civility” is an excellent example. The tale of a young woman in the thirties navigating men and wild parties certainly seemed interesting, but after over 100 pages, I wasn’t seeing the main character being challenged or developing in any meaningful way. There weren’t any life changing events, just endless conversations with boring people, which didn’t add anything to the story. When I caught myself wondering, “What is this book about?” I realized the plot had yet to make itself known. As a result, I wasn’t drawn back to the book to see what the main character would do next. I shut the book, and the plot had yet to emerge.
I will admit that I am an impatient person, but the point is that I want to enjoy a book, not just read it. Having been taught that a decent book will have an event that will shape the protagonist hasn’t helped the situation. I want a round protagonist – someone who learns something about themselves or is faced with a challenge, and a flat antagonist – someone who will be unaffected from the events. Yet, I’m constantly amazed that authors give us less than admirable main characters who simply have no redeeming qualities, and to whom nothing interesting happens. I want to like the main character, and I want to watch as they do something. So, if the author can’t put together a story that showcases the main character while challenging them in some way, I’m moving on to the next book.
How long do you wait for a plot to emerge? Have you read a book where you felt the author forgot to include a plot?