It's a simple test, and unfortunately my wrong world view often resists simplicity. But every once in a while I'm reminded of how well it works and how rarely books pass it. I'm talking about the goosebump test, when people judge the quality of the book they're reading by whether or not it gives them goosebumps. (It works for other things too: love, hairstyles, puppy cuteness, frozen dinner commercials.)
I'm revising Cyberlama--tentatively titled The Monuments--and I'm finally remembering to let the goosebump test guide a lot of my decisions. I was working on a scene that felt pretty boring. I tried to expand it to create more of an experience, but at some point I just felt like I was making a boring scene longer and still boring. Then, I ran through some possibilities in my head, and suddenly, I got them. (Goosebumps, that is.) And I was excited enough to stay up far past my normal bedtime, despite the fact that I knew I'd have to get up early to walk Peanut.
For me, the goosebump test helps to distinguish between when my brain is saying, "Yeah, this is logical and the flow is nice," and my heart is saying, "Ooh, yes, yes, yes! Yes, yes! Yes!" I think readers prefer the latter most of the time.
It's an invisible thing. The right words and the right ideas don't always add up to goosebumps. So for me, someone who often has to fight being too analytical, it's a great test, and I fully endorse it.
1. Don't forget our anthology is available!
2. If any of you ever have a chance to see a ballet choreographed by Angelin Preljocaj, I highly recommend it. I've seen three of them now (last Saturday I watched Blanche Neige at the Dorothy Chandler Pavillion), and each time I'm left driven to make my writing more creative, beautiful, and emotional. Preljocaj has sold out by letting Air France use a scene from his ballet Le Parc--which, funnily enough, was the first ballet I saw of his and one I've mentioned here before. It gives me a chance to show it to you.
And if you have 8 minutes to spare. Here's the same scene in context. For me, this passes the goosebump test while the first one does not.