Saturday, February 25, 2012

Turn the Page by Michael Wiley

Michael Wiley writes the Joe Kozmarski PI novels, including most recently A Bad Night’s Sleep (St. Martin’s Minotaur), which January Magazine has called one of the best crime novels of 2011. Winner of the PWA/SMP award for “Best First Private Eye Novel” and currently a Director-at-Large on the Mystery Writers of America Board, Michael lives with his family in Northeast Florida, though he sets his books in Chicago, where he grew up and got most of his scars.

Turn the Page

by Michael Wiley
When our son was two, we took him to Story Telling Hour at our neighborhood library. He loved (and loves) stories, and he sat on the carpet politely – legs crossed, hands in his lap – alongside other toddlers as a librarian read a tale about a rabbit, a hedgehog, and a train. My son was silent, enthralled. The other kids were too. You could have taken a picture and used it to advertise the value of libraries in young children’s lives. But when the librarian paused, looked up from the book, and smiled at the children, my son yelled, “Turn the page!”

Ever since that day, I’ve thought that these are words to live by, both as a reader and as a writer. Plato says that an unexamined life is not worth living, and he’s probably right, but if he examines it too long and I’m in the audience, I’m going to shout, “Turn the page!”

I want rising action, complications, twists and turns, growing suspense, a climax, and a couple of pages of falling action. I want to lie in bed afterward, smoking a cigarette. Then I want another book, another page-turner.

When I write, I want the same: I want a story – not a theme or a message or a deep meaning – and I want the story to take readers for a ride. In my dream of dreams, hundreds of thousands of readers are lying in bed, smoking cigarettes, after turning the final page of one of my books. Then they pat the book on the cover and say, lovingly, “Again?”

I do have insights, buckets of them: insights about . . . almost everything. You need a political candidate? I’ll give you one. You’re looking for religion? I’ll tell you what I think. You’re searching for a good book to read? You mean after you’ve finished mine? Yes, I have lots and lot of insights and I share them with my family and friends until they scream, “STOP!”

And then I stop, because I know what they want – and it doesn’t involve my lecturing, moralizing, or sermonizing. They want the same thing I want: a story that makes them move, a story that makes them turn the page.


Kaye Wilkinson Barley - Meanderings and Muses said...

Hi, MIchael - Welcome back!

Excellent piece with an excellent point, thank you.

and an adorable story about your little boy - I loved it. (Like father, like son??)


Michael Wiley said...

Thanks, Kaye -- It's great to be here again. I could only live up to the example set by my kids . . . .

Patricia Stoltey said...

That's what I want too, Michael. I love the story about your little boy's eagerness to get on with the story.

Michael Wiley said...

Thanks, Patricia. My little boy is now taller than his mother and seems interested in passing me up soon too, but his attitude about stories remains the same as before.

Neil Plakcy said...

Great point, Michael! Looking forward to seeing you at Sleuthfest next week. We had a stuffing party today (putting together bags & badges) and I put the meal tickets in your badge, so if you get the wrong meals it's my fault.

Michael Wiley said...

Thanks, and it'll be great to see you in Orlando, Neil: looks like a great group.