I recently read a published YA novel that didn't really grab me. It wasn't that the stakes weren't high enough-- it was a situation in which the whole world hung in the balance. If the protag failed, the apocalypse was at hand. And yet I wasn't on the edge of my seat. So I've been thinking about why, and I've come up with a few thoughts. For one thing, the "whole world" being at risk doesn't mean much to me as a reader. It's simply too much to imagine. I am more moved by the idea that my little brother or my father or even my dog is at risk, because that I can picture and relate to emotionally. They say that poetry is in the specific details, and I think that danger is in the details, too.
But maybe more important than that, I never had any real doubt that the protag in this book would do the right thing. Her task was laid out before her and she was going to accomplish it, or possibly die trying. Although our heroine was faced with a tough situation, she never really had to make tough choices. I am starting to feel that tough choices-- ones which require our hero to sacrifice or risk something precious-- are much more compelling than simple tough situations, and while I work on my wip I am trying to ask myself "Okay, when is she tempted?" because in a truly tough choice there's always the temptation to take the easy way out and those moments of temptation always grab me in a novel because they say so much about the character and what makes her tick. Just my random two cents for today :)