How soon do you know whether a book is going to deliver on its promise or not? I was thinking about this because I picked up a book that’s been on my TBR pile for a while, just for something different between all the literary criticism and Woolf novels, and I knew within the first chapter that something just wasn’t quite right. The book has gotten some good reviews, but it didn’t take long for me to be weary of these characters and their issues. I wanted to yell at them, “Just get on with it!”

The writing is good, don’t get me wrong. But something is missing, something that I wish I could pinpoint and say, “Aha!” If I could do that, I’d be bottling it and selling it at conferences (because we all feel like we’re missing something in our WIPs from time to time). 🙂 Or maybe it’s not the writing so much as the style. Not everyone likes the same authors, for instance. I’ve seen reviews lambasting Susan Elizabeth Phillips, for example, and I just love everything she writes! Even when I’m mad at her characters I’ll keep reading. I trust her to deliver. And I’m emotionally invested when I’m angry. Smart lady.

But I can’t even get angry at this book’s characters. I’m just weary and irritated with them and I haven’t even cracked 60 pages yet. I hope like hell my characters aren’t this boring and wooden. But, dang it, if we knew we were writing characters this way, none of us would do it. How do we know they haven’t come alive? How do we make sure they do?

If you figure it out, can you sell me a bottle? I just want to be sure…..