Let me preface this post by letting you know I’m not usually scared of bugs. Normally I don’t hesitate to squash ’em when I see ’em, but it was my turn to sleep in when one particular crawler, track-racing around my ceiling, caught my attention. Here’s something else, this little guy captivated my focus for a healthy duration. I watched, intensely curious (and still hazy from sleep), as he trekked almost entirely around the room. You may be wondering why I didn’t hop up and take the little guy down. I’ll tell you why. He’s perfect fodder for this post—that’s why.
Because that bug (I refuse to call it a roach because I’m still in denial that’s what it was and our bug guy comes this Tuesday, so it’s better for me if I just remain in denial) somehow led me to think about what makes a reader stay with a novel. And not just stay with it, flip pages with vested interest.
I came up with a few parallels between my bug buddy and a book that successfully pulls a reader along.
Fear. Of course not all books must make a reader afraid per se. But compelling novels will evoke emotion in a reader. They will make you feel something. I couldn’t shake the thought that maybe that roach-looking thing was going to go all ninja on me. So I studied it with hawk eyes. My interest was hooked in part due to my emotional reaction. Tension is gold.
Curiosity. I wanted to see where my bug buddy would go. Strong novels lure the reader deeper in when they include characters to care about and a plot that goes somewhere. Truth be told, my bug buddy could move it, move it.
Fascination. I’ve been an animal lover since I was a child. Animals of all kinds intrigue me. And it’s a little embarrassing to admit, but I’m pretty sure I’m the reason why we turn on Wild Kratts every morning before school. All this to say, I had to know how this creature would play his next move. Would it eventually fly? I’ve seen a few creepy-looking ones do that. Would it leap down onto the window and flit against as though caught in a zapper? Would it attack my nose with its flesh-eating legs or spit venom on my forehead? Novels that excel at hooking readers incite readers to ask questions—they encourage readers to care. Whether a reader realizes it or not, they are constantly assessing how a book compares to their life. We want to learn something. Be it simplistic in nature or highly involved, humans are learners at heart.
I know you want to know what happened. Did I eventually smash the sucker and toss it in the toilet? Did it live on to procreate and produce hundreds of other bugs festering in the vents of my home? This leads me to my final bring-it-home bug-related point . . .
The bug made a Houdini great escape. It leapt into some Christmas shopping bags and instantly became invisible. Both my husband and I were not able to locate the little guy. He fled, accomplishing one of the most important things to remember from this post. He embedded himself into my thoughts. The bug is gone. The novel read. And it stays with you. That, my friends, is an indicator of a compelling read.
Think of me tonight as I sleep with one eye open because the bug has done its job.