Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The 3 S's Readers Love

Lets discuss books from the point of readers and not writers today. Readers are an important part of the process of writing. Books are written  only for them. We were readers: die hard readers, long before we plunged into the world of writing.

I have noticed that readers love the  3 S’s. They loved to be Surprised. They love to be  Shocked. And, they love to be Spooked.

Sudden  surprises that makes them shake their heads in amazement.

Swift shocks that renders them into a state of  momentary silence.

Steady spooks that turn them into a mass of quivering jelly.

 Pleasant surprises are welcomed by everyone in their day to day life. And readers are no different. The element of surprise works wonders for the readership of books. The strange twists and turns the plot takes keeps the readers glued to the book. New revelations of the  main character, new entrants that propel the plot forward, the unceremonious exits of old characters, stubborn obstacles that crop up, hook the readers big time. By constantly surprising readers in every chapter  the book starts to become  a page turner. Lets flash back to Harry Potter. Mrs Figg  turning out to be a squib was just one of the many  pleasant surprises  the readers enjoyed! Frequent surprises sweep  away the boredom that tends to creep in. It brings a certain freshness, like the opening of a window that dissipates the musty air.

Though in our personal lives there is no room for shock: we actually detest it, but when we read, shock appeals. We love it when our favourite authors  shock us, when dirty  character  secrets are revealed slowly, chapter by chapter. Book by book. When skeletons tumble out thick and fast from locked cupboards.  When the underbelly of a character is exposed. A case being  J.K.Rowling. Every Potter book  had plenty of the 3 S’s thrown in. I could never have guessed that Snape had been secretly in love with Lily ( Harry Potter’s mother). I am sure that none of us  actually  imagined Snape  being in love with anyone! Albus Dumbledore’s tumultuous past too was a bolt from the blue. For me he was a paragon of virtue. And that he could have a chink in his armour was a major shock.

Another emotion we love in our books is being Spooked. This works more in favour of thrillers, suspense and murder mysteries. The spook factor intensifies the movement of the plot, increases the pace,  heart beats accelerate, nails are chewed as we enter into the thicket of  fear.  Harry’s connection with Voldemort  because of the scar on his head was a tad spooky. Anything that raises our anxiety, heightens our tension has us hooked emotionally to that object.  What will happen next? Will the main character escape, will he/she be saved?? Who will emerge victorious? Will the world be saved? Questions that peck at our mind with the persistence of a woodpecker need their answers, which only the turn of a page will provide.

When the three S’s join together in a book, that has oodles of style, as well as a strong storyline,  the reader is frantically racing over the lines. It’s getting quite alliterative: surprise, shock, spook, style and story.

Which element appeals to you the most? As a reader.

P.S. This post too is one of my earlier ones. Next week I promise to write a  new one. So, please bear with me for now.


  1. Ooh...what a wonderful post. I am unable to believe that these thought provoking posts were your first few. They not only teach, but also entertain. Thanks for sharing these amazing posts. I would have hated to miss them.

  2. Glad you posted this! I hadn't read it - must not have been following at the time it was posted. :) I like the breakdown; working on editing some of my chapters and it is good food for thought. It is interesting, as you say, that we don't like these elements in real life, but we do like to see them in a plot. Have a good week!

  3. This was a great post, Rachna, and gives me lots to think about as I work through the current rewrite of my WIP. I think as a reader, I love most to be surprised, especially if the surprise has a humorous twist. I can't say that I love to be shocked. But a shocking turn sure gets my attention and makes me turn the page, no doubt about it. I do like to be spooked in the sense of a good ghost story. I don't like horror-spooking, but the eerie, mysterios spook factor, yes. I love ghost stories and the supernatural.

  4. I have plenty of surprises and shocks in my book. More for the one I am currently writing than the first. Spooky however is few and far. The most spooky thing is in the first book, but its not spooky until things are revealed in the second and third books.

  5. My mom totally guessed that Snape was in love with Lily after the 5th book. I was pretty skeptical about that. But I always knew he was a good guy!

    I like being surprised and shocked. Not so much spooked because I'm a big baby, LoL. Sometimes being scared is fun! Just not too scared, haha.

  6. Love the alliteration, Rachna :-) And I'd have to say I like being surprised the most--and trying to figure out how the author kept it hidden until just the right moment! Great post, thanks...

  7. Ooh, I love these three S's! I think it's always a great idea to sneak these in a book. Readers want that shock, surprise and scare to keep them interested and keep them guessing. Great post!

  8. Yup, I can be won over by them - as long as they are germane to the plot and not optional extras.

  9. Some really good points here. I think writers def should surprise readers with twists, but I only hesitate at the word "shock" simply because sometimes shock-value can also be distracting and almost see-through in some works. Nonetheless, I think you've got some great ideas in here:)

  10. Great post, Rachna. Loved the 3 S's. It sure makes sense and helps a newbie writer like me a lot. Thanks a lot.

  11. Loved the post. Its awesome. Some really wonderful tips. Thanks for sharing them.

  12. I liked reading your old posts, so don't apologize! Keep them coming if you like. :)
    Great points about the 3 S's too. I agree.