Last week I read the currently popular novel The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware. This week I read Pam Munoz Ryan’s award-winning novel Echo. The books couldn’t be more different. Ware’s novel is suspenseful, heavy in plot, but short on character development. Echo is a children’s book with a touch of fantasy and three distinct stories ultimately tied together with a common theme. I enjoyed both books very much and admire the writing talents of the authors. But despite the differences, these novels have one element in common: the climaxes leave me wanting more.
The Woman in Cabin 10 reveals the identity of the killer sooner than one would expect. When the climax arrives, it’s a chase scene that builds suspense nicely. However, because we already know the murderer’s identity, the element of surprise is muted. In Echo, each of the three stories ends with a cliffhanger. The reader has to wait until the end of the 500+ page book for a brief wrap-up that explains how the cliffhangers were resolved. I felt cheated. I wanted more detail. I wanted to know how young Friedrich felt while evading the Nazis. I wanted to know how Mike, the orphan, recovered and accepted his fate. I wanted to know how Ivy, the young Mexican-American girl, reacted to the news of her brother who was fighting overseas during World War II.
I’m currently writing my third novel. The climactic scene involves the heroine’s frantic effort to stop the public showing of a video. Beta readers have praised the suspenseful scene, but more than one commented that they wanted more from the final reveal. I’ve taken heed and am rewriting the scene so it delivers a stronger punch that should satisfy the reader’s expectations.
I learn and grow as a writer by reading novels and by listening to the advice of my beta readers.