Nov 14, 2011

But What Happens?

By Tracy Astle

Let's play a little guessing game. Here's a quote from W. Somerset Maugham. See if you can guess who was the subject of this quote.

"Nothing very much happens in her books, and yet when you come to the bottom of a page, you eagerly turn it to see what will happen next. Nothing very much does and again you eagerly turn the page.The novelist who has the power to acheive this has the most precious gift a novelist can possess."

Are you thinking?

Okay. While you are, let's look at this quote. I don't  know about you, but I hear all the time how we need to open our stories with action and that we must have action, on every page, in every scene, in every word, movement or thought from every character. Action, action, action. It can be very easy to interpret this to mean we all need to write thrilling, whirlwind types of novels, but that would leave us asking, "What about the quiet kinds of stories that draw us in gradually, let us fall in love with the characters, feel for their plight and maybe even cause us to stop and think about things in a new way? Is their any room in today's publishing world for those kinds of books?"

Of course there is. So how do we keep our readers turning pages when "nothing very much happens?" I believe one of te keys to this can be found in the comment of another author who pointed out that change can be a kind of action. If we put our characters in a moment of change to begin with and then invite our readers to experiences changes along with them, the pages are likely to keep turning.

Does that mean we can write successful books that aren't full of chase scenes, car (or carriage or wagon) crashes, things exploding, or some kind of intrigue? According to W. Somerset Maugham Jane Austen did. (500 bonus points to you if you guessed right!)

So tell me two things -
1) Did you guess it was Jane the quote was about?
2) Can you name some more recent successful novels where "nothing much happens" action-wise? A Walk to Remember comes to mind for me.


  1. I guessed right. I enjoyed the post!

  2. I'm impressed, Valerie.

    You are now the proud owner of 500 bonus points. Who knows? They may be worth something someday, if not here, then over on my personal blog.

    Anyone else who guesses correctly can claim their points, too. We're not limited to one winner here. :)

  3. I guessed correctly. I haven't read it yet but I am guessing The Help probably does that. Also a lot of romances and Christmas stories, .

  4. I feel I should recluse myself here giggle because I adore the action packed novels and can't stand Jane Austen...hope there aren't too many gasps. Eventually it all goes back to personal choice...aka the reader.

  5. 500 points to Susan, too. Smart crowd, this. I also thought of The Help. Great book.

    Bravo for speaking up, Terri. ;)From the success of the genre, obviously LOTS of people like the action packed noevls, myself included. (Love, love, love The Hunger Games series!)

    I was just feeling like the quieter ones needed a little love since there's sooo much emphasis on action.


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