Friday, April 29, 2011

Learning from an Addiction

Lately, I’ve been absolutely addicted to the TV drama, Supernatural. I never watched the show before, straying from it because ghosts scare me to death.  I’ve always heard great things about the show, and when I found the first season on DVD on sale, I had to buy it. But even after I bought it, I didn’t watch it for months. It wasn’t until last month when I decided to unwrap the case and pop the first disc into my DVD player.


That’s all I can really say. The show is spectacular. The main characters are very well developed (and super hot), the plot is always fast paced and intriguing (did I mention the hot brothers).  So I started thinking, what is the draw of this show? What gets viewers to tune in every week? Is it the hot brothers? No doubt, we women do love our eye candy. It’s sweet, tasty, and calorie-free.  But eye candy isn’t always the reason people tune in. Is it the character’s themselves? The brother’s battle with good and evil, as they start to realize one of them may soon turn evil. That’s some interesting stuff. But a good character, without a good storyline, is not a way to gain an audience. Maybe it’s the plot. I mean, this show does have a great plot. But… I’ve seen other shows with very promising plots that were actually very boring and didn’t last long.

Then it hit me. Yesterday, I sat watching the show on my laptop. It was eight at night and I told myself that I’ll only watch one episode and then I’ll go write. Yeah, three or four episodes later, being the only one awake in my house, I got scared and crawled into bed.

So what made me watch this show instead of write (which I love so much)? The cliffhangers. At the end of every episode, I was dying to find out what will happen next. All through the show I keep thinking, what will happen next? Why did this or that happen? What secret is this person keeping? How will they escape this mess?

That made me start thinking about books and I noticed that every book I loved made me ask questions until the last page.

Recently, I encountered someone (who is in the book industry) who kept telling me that readers don’t like to ask questions. They don’t like to think while reading. Instead, readers prefer descriptive, flowery language. They like to know what everything looks like and feels like and would rather read pages of details instead of pages leading to “what will happen next” questions.

That contradicted everything I’ve ever known about writing. I also thought that readers like the details to be incorporated in a way that doesn’t slow down the pace of the action. This person told me they like pages upon pages of nothing but description. I thought readers like that cliffhanger at the end of a chapter that will keep them reading. This person says that cliffhangers turn readers off. This gave me the biggest writer’s block I’ve ever had. It made me wonder if everything I’ve ever learned about writing was wrong. It wasn’t until yesterday’s Supernatural episodes that pulled me in because of the questions asked and not the location where the episodes were shot.

So I’m asking you guys, what do you think: Do you prefer books that make you ask why, what will happen next, and how will they get out? Or do you prefer books with pages upon pages of details and descriptions and very little action?


  1. I love questions. I want to be forced to stay up until the wee small hours to get all the answers.
    As for pages of description, *yawn*. If there are long chunks of flowery descriptive writing, I skip 'em. :)

  2. My 110,000 word memoir has very little description but every chapter ends with a teaser or cliffhanger. I can't tell you how many people have told me they read the entire thing from start to finish in one sitting. It was the cliffhanger endings that kept them reading--they had to know what came next. I skip descriptions and will actually put down a book without finishing it if there's too much flowery language. I think this is an opinion thing--I know one writer in particular whose work I can hardly stand to read because it's so flowery and wordy--yet she's published and I'm not!

  3. As long as I get a nice wrap up at the end, bring on the questions and cliffhangers and teasers. I want enough description to set the world and people then back off and let my imagination take over, that's why I'm reading in the first place.

    I'll have to check out this show :)

  4. Thank you guys for commenting. You all just reminded me that everything I learned about writing was right and this one person who tried to convince me otherwise is completely wrong. I wonder how this person got a job in publishing.

    Shirley: I love being forced to stay up in the middle of the night. I skip over descriptions as well.

    Old Men: LOVE the name. I would like to check your story out. I love cliffhangers. I’ve put down a few books because of the details. Yes, there are some authors who publish and you often wonder why when their books are so full of useless details and no plot. Then again, there are so many vanity presses now a days, makes you wonder if those authors are TRULY published or if they paid for their name to be in print.

    Raelyn: I agree. Details should only paint a picture to a degree but the imagination should do the rest. I hate books that are overly details. I recently read something where it took the author about ten pages of description to tell the reader that the main character walked to the door to answer it. Seriously! I put the book down and have not since picked it up. --- And you should check Supernatural out, it's a great show but one of those you need to watch from the first episode. If you like paranormal, then you'll probably like this show.

  5. For every person who loves cliffhangers and tight writing, there'll be his opposite who loves long description and neat chapter endings.

    Most 'literary' fiction is the latter. And while I'll read literary on occasion, I prefer cliffhangers and evocative writing that can say a lot in very few words.

    My prediction (for what it's worth) is that the next generation will look for shorter and shorter work. I'm already seeing it in the cell-phone stories the Japanese are gaga about. We live in an age where most people don't have time to read a lot of narrative.

  6. I definately agree with your view on writing, Angelina. Too much detail and I wander off and forget the book. I want a little blank so I can tailor the story to my individual tastes. "The flowers were in full bloom." allows me to insert pictures of my favorite flower versus one the author tagged in there that I might not like so much. "The yellow roses along the pathway danced in the wind, their unfurled petals sun-kissed and bright."

  7. First of all, SUPERNATURAL totally rocks! That is one of my fave shows and I am completely in love with those Winchester boys.

    I disagree with that advice you were give. Too much description is boring and clouds the story. I think the trick is finding the right balance. Bring on questions and cliffhangers for me.

  8. I want to first say that I have missed you terribly in May.

    Now, with that out of the way - while I do enjoy flowery language, I much prefer a book that makes me THINK, that keeps me guessing, that is full of action!!

    I love coming into a series late and catching it all on DVDs. I hate the waiting between shows - a week is way too long. It's much better to be able to pop in the episodes one after another. I'm not big on cliffhangers when I have to wait an entire week for the next episode!!

  9. First off - I LOVE Supernatural. Secondly, I'll take a question and cliffhanger over pages of description (that I'll guiltily skip) anyday. Just like a good movie or TV show, I like it when I'm wondering what's next - to a point.

    I can't remember the name of the movie I saw once where literally every person in the MCs life was double crossing them. The surprises just kept coming out of the woodwork. At some point I thought - geez this guy is bad at picking friends. Someone has to like him for who he is - seriously.