Friday, March 3, 2017

Book Blogger Hop No. 86: Novel Beginnings: Fast or Slow?

Welcome to the Book Blogger Hop,
hosted by Billy @

For more information, and 
to find out the topic of next week's question, click HERE.

This Week's Question

When you start reading a novel, do
you prefer to be plunged right 
into the action, or do you prefer a
slower, more descriptive
introduction to the plot
and characters?

(Submitted  by Maria @ 

My Answer

In the past few years, I've become a very eclectic reader. From reading mostly classics, adult fantasy, and science fiction books, I've gone to mostly reading YA Fiction, which includes fantasy and science fiction, as well as paranormal romance and urban fantasy. I've also added historical and contemporary adult romance to my collection of books read.

All of the above genres have different characteristics, but there are two basic approaches authors take when beginning a narrative. I would have to say that I enjoy them both.

When reading YA Fiction, as well as other types of popular genre fiction, I do enjoy the style that plunges the reader right into the action. However, I also have a pet peeve regarding this technique. There are writers who will start off their novels with a bang, in the middle of the story, and then throw in a lot of flashbacks, with a lot of information dumping. This I certainly do NOT like. I think it takes away from the total enjoyment of the book.

On the other hand, I love how classics and literary fiction gently ease you into the story. I know there are some readers who don't like this approach, as they find it tedious and boring. I love it, though. I love poetic prose writing. I love descriptions of natural scenes or bustling city neighborhoods. It's very important to me to encounter a vivid setting, and that's what these types of novels provide. Of course, the popular genre novels also provide vivid settings, but they do so in a prose style that's much more immediate.

My selection of reading material will also depend on my mood at the time. If I want to just enjoy a light read, then I'll go with "the fast approach". If, on the other hand, I'm in the mood to indulge my brain and senses in some beautiful, descriptive, lyrical prose, then I'll go with the more leisurely approach.

One of the most important characteristics of classics and literary fiction is that the prose style is just as important as the plot and characters. It's the masterful use of language that I enjoy -- the skillful use of similes, metaphors, the flow, the music of the words.....

In both styles of writing -- the fast and the more leisurely -- a reader can find great plots and characters. Absolutely! These styles are very different, but yet, they can be equally enjoyable.

I guess I must confess to being torn between the two styles.....

Here's an example of an introduction from my favorite classic novel, Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Brontë.

"There was no possibility of taking a walk that day. We had been wandering, indeed, in the leafless shrubbery an hour in the morning, but since dinner (Mrs. Reed, when there was no company, dined early) the cold winter wind had brought clouds with it so somber, and a rain so penetrating, that further outdoor exercise was now out of the question.

I was glad of it: I never liked long walks, especially on chilly afternoons: dreadful to me was the coming home in the raw twilight, with nipped fingers and toes...." (from Chapter 1)

There is such beauty in these sentences! I love the flowing, musical cadences. I love the way the author -- a great master -- lets you feel the young Jane's feelings as she describes, in a melancholy tone, just how dreary her afternoons at her aunt's residence are. We gradually get to know this precocious young girl, as she deals with her feelings of utter loneliness.

Here's the introduction to another of my favorite novels -- this time, Trinity Stones, by L.G. O'Connor. This is an adult urban fantasy novel. Although there's a preface, which is titled "Prelude", and is a slower-paced introduction, Chapter I jumps right in.

"One year later....

New York City, Wednesday, March 19, 7:30 AM EDT

"Heal me," he whispered.


Cara ignored the man with the V-shaped scar on his cheek, who was pressed up against her side in the fast-moving subway car. With her face half-hidden behind a curtain of auburn waves, she continued to scroll through the e-mail on her work phone. Taking half a step away, she tried to create some distance between them.

The car banked hard to the left, a metallic squeal of brakes echoing off the tunnel walls as the train barreled around a turn. Cara swayed under the weight of the briefcase slung over her shoulder and shifted back into the man." (from Chapter I)

In this second example, the reader is thrust right into the story. Something is definitely going on between the protagonist, Cara, and this weird guy on the subway. The images are vivid, reminding me of swift cinematic shots. Cara is clearly uncomfortable in this situation, as she's pressed too close to this man, who is requesting healing from her.  Why would this stranger ask her for such an absurd thing, in the middle of a crowded subway car?

As in the opening from the novel Jane Eyre, we are feeling the protagonist's feelings right along with her. The style, however, is much more immediate, and our imagination shifts quickly back and forth between Cara, whom we have just met, and the stranger who is making the very unusual request.

The O'Connor novel is full of action, and the characterizations are awesome. The Brontë novel is, of course, full of wonderful characterizations, too, and it has the added dimension of the beautiful prose style.

The question is this: is one style better than the other? According to literary critics, the slower-paced, more flowing literary fiction style is vastly superior to the more immediate, action-and-image-packed style of popular genres. But, when you ask readers, do they find each equally enjoyable, perhaps depending on their moods? In the case of this reader, the answer is a strong affirmative.

I can only speak for myself, however. Not all readers will agree with me. In the case of literary fiction, I must admit that novels in this genre are not usually as easy to understand as those in the popular genres. They do require some type of effort on the part of a reader. I enjoy reading such novels, though, (with the marked exception of such experimental novels as Ulysses, by James Joyce) because to me, delving deeply into such a work is actually an enjoyable activity.

In short, I find that both narrative styles can be equally rewarding, and can pull me into a book, depending on my mood at the time.

What are your thoughts on
this topic?
Please leave a comment!
If you're participating in this meme,
I'll go comment on your 
own BBH post.
If not, I will then comment on one 
of your blog posts!
Thanks for visiting!!! 


  1. AMAZING answer as always, Maria.

    Thanks for your wonderful thoughts.

    Have a good weekend.

    Happy Hopping!!

    Silver's Reviews
    My Blog Hop Answer

    1. Hi, Elizabeth!

      Thanks for the compliment!! :)

      As you can see, I love to write rather lengthy posts! Lol,

      Hope you have a good weekend, too! Happy Hopping to you, as well, and thanks for commenting back!! <3 :)

  2. Great commentary Maria.

    Though I might have though differently when I was younger. I really like a book to start of slowly. Even when it comes to science fiction or other "genres", I prefer when n author starts by highlighting prose or descriptions.

    As I agree with you that Jane Eyre is among the greatest novels ever written, perhaps it is unfair to compare it to much else :)

    1. Hi, Brian!

      Thanks for the good word!! :)

      Interesting that, in recent years, you've begun to appreciate books that start off in a more leisurely fashion. With me, it was just the opposite, lol. I used to actually prefer classics and literary fiction precisely because of their slower introduction to the plot and characters. I greatly enjoyed the prose styles of the books I read. Of course, the great Tolkien also wrote in gorgeous prose, and SF writers like Bradbury did, as well.

      In more recent years, I've gotten into YA fiction, which does not usually contain poetic prose. One exception to this, though, was the novel "A Court of Thorns and Roses". I greatly enjoyed the prose style of the novel, if not, ironically enough, all of the story itself.

      Of course "Jane Eyre" is 'among the greatest novels ever written'. I totally concur, as you know. the only reason I mentioned the other book was in order to compare the two different styles. I really do enjoy them both although I must admit to a slight preference for the more poetic, leisurely style.

      Thanks for such a GREAT comment!! Hope you're enjoying your Saturday!! :) :) :)

  3. I hadn't thought of it in terms of my mood but that's definitely interesting! I think my preference depends on the type of read I'm looking for but as long as the author interests me in some way I don't have to start off with a sprint.

    1. Hi, Katherine!

      You know, I had not, either, but when I sat down and started thinking about this issue, I realized that, indeed, I do tend to get into either type of book, depending on my mood.

      I agree with you, though -- as long as the author is an interesting writer, he or she can hold and keep my attention, no matter how they begin their books.

      I love how you put it: "I don't have to start off with a sprint." Lol. Very well stated!!

      Thanks for stopping by and leaving such an interesting and humorous comment!! Hope you're enjoying your Saturday!! <3 :)

  4. I prefer a subtle hook and a slow progression This was a fab question! :)

    1. Hi, there!

      Thanks for the compliment!! :)

      I still have a slight preference for the slower introduction, but nowadays I do enjoy both styles, depending on my mood.

      Thanks for commenting! Hope you're having a nice Saturday!! :)

  5. Goodness Maria! You sure did write an awesome and thorough post on this question. Well worth the read. Both your examples were great pics as well. Like I've said in my Blogger Hop post, I can deal with most introductions. As longs as it keeps my attention. But I love the comfort of the classical way of easing into a story most.

    Again - great post!

    1. Hi, Mareli!

      Oh, thank you so much for the wonderful compliment!! :)

      You know, I really enjoy answering all of the questions presented in these BBH posts! This gives me an opportunity to explore my thoughts and feelings regarding the question of the week. This is why I usually go into some detail and depth in these posts. I feel that I should explore any given question thoroughly.

      I must confess to a slight preference for the slower introduction, but I really can enjoy both. It just depends on my mood.

      Thanks for the lovely comment!! You're so sweet!! <3 :) Hope you're enjoying your Saturday!! <3 <3 :) :)

  6. Great in-depth and thoughtful answer! In general I prefer some action at the beginning, depending on the genre, but I hadn't thought about the action-packed opener and then flashbacks to fill in the details. I don't much like that either. Loved reading your thoughts on this!

    My (much shorter) answer is here:

    1. Hi, Kym!

      Thank you so much for the compliment!! :)

      Yeah, some authors do start off with a bang, and then load the story with flashbacks full of information dumping. I have refrained from naming names, lol.

      I usually go for books that start off by plunging the reader right into the action when I'm in the mood for that type of thing. When I'm in the mood for a slower, descriptive introduction, then I grab a classic, and/or literary fiction (sometimes they're one and the same).

      I'm so glad you enjoyed reading my thoughts!! Thanks for the lovely comment!! Hope you have a wonderful Sunday!! <3 :)

  7. When I read the question, I automatically thought "well, both! But... it depends on my mood"; and then I read your answer and just had to nod my head and say "EXACTLY!" You put that into words so beautifully! And I couldn't agree more about being plunged into the story only to have to suffer through flashbacks and information dumps. That irritates me.
    Brilliant answer and fantastic examples in Jane Eyre and Trinity Stones. You put so much thought into these blogger hops, and I enjoy reading them so much! Hope you're having a fabulous weekend, my friend! Love and hugs <3 <3 <3

    1. Hi, Michele!

      I'm glad we both agree on the mood reading and the annoyance of the information dumps through flashbacks! Well, you know what they say about great minds thinking alike! Lol.

      Thank you so much for your compliments!! <3 <3 <3 I do put a lot of thought into these hop questions because I truly enjoy exploring the ideas they bring up in my mind. I really can't explain these ideas in just one or two sentences, so then I expand upon them. It's just that I LOVE to write! I'm SO happy that you enjoy reading these posts!!

      Thanks for such a sweet, lovely comment!! Hope you're having a fabulous weekend, too!! Love & hugs back, to you, and Mckenzie, as well!! <3 <3 <3 :) :) :)

  8. Our answers are very similar, although yours is much more in-depth, Maria. I think both can be very effective starts to novels. So much depends on the novel itself. And like for you, my mood also can play into it.

    I hope you are having a good weekend, Maria! Mouse's birthday is this next week, and I am crazy busy preparing for that on top of everything else. I'm trying to remember to breathe. Enjoy your week!

    1. Hi, Wendy!

      I'm glad to see that we concur on this issue! I tend to get pretty analytical on these blog hop questions, and this one has been on my mind for some time. I finally decided to tackle it!

      I think my mood is the main reason I can take either of these two introductory styles.

      As I'm answering this comment on Monday, I'll tell you that I had a great weekend!! Hubs took me to a library on Saturday, and to Barnes & Noble yesterday!! YAAAAAY!! I got 3 hardcovers and 1 paperback for $2.00 at the library, where they were having a book sale! Lol. (Of course I also bought a book at B&N!)

      How nice that Mouse's birthday is coming up this week! You must be VERY busy!! Hope you enjoy your week, too!!

      Thanks for the super nice comment!! <3 :)


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