Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Best Book Ever...

I’m back. Yes, I’m really back and I feel awful about not posting. I thought I had it all figured out. I didn’t. I didn’t have the correct hard drive with me with the post on it. And my attempt to recreate the post, while my hubby and kids glared at me was null. So my apologies. I have been playing catch up (with the laundry, with the cleaning, with my schoolwork…) since I’ve been back and I’ve neglected the blog.

Since I’ve been away, I’ve been thinking of what makes a story great. What makes me want to turn the page and not stop until I get to the end? What makes me daydream about it long after I’ve put it down? And what makes me want to run out and purchase other books from the author? Well, those are tough to answer. There aren’t any right or wrong answers. What I like is my personal preference. It may differ greatly from what someone else likes. Nevertheless, there are certain elements of a book that cannot be compromised.

What are they?
Character Development – This is the most important element of the book - in my opinion. Great characters can make up for some of the other things that may be lacking in the story. Some…not all. The characters must be three-dimensional. Think: Stephanie Meyers character “Wanda” from The Host. Larry Brooks provides a great article about character development at his blog, Story Fix.

Setting – The setting (where your story takes place) can be like another character in your book. If done correctly. The setting should be rich and make the reader feel that they are there with the characters. Think: James Cameron's, Avatar (I know its not a book but it was great). A great article on settings can be found at The Storytellers Unplugged.

Villains – Now this is where I think some writers goof. They don’t spend enough time developing the villain. Now the villain does not have to be a live person. It can be nature, societal pressures, friends, relatives, or even the protagonist can be his/her own villain. Get creative, treat the villain like a real character, and make them three-dimensional too. Think: James Patterson’s character, The One who is the One, Witch and Wizard. I thought I’d direct you to an earlier post by me for the villain – here.

Pacing- This is another area (for me) that makes or breaks a novel. Don’t give away too much or you’ll lose your audience. But don’t make me wait until the last line of the book to start getting answers to questions. Think: Edward and Bella’s romance in Twilight. Janice Hardy over at The Other Side of the Story has a great article up about pacing.  

If any of these things are off in the story, I can’t continue to read. It throws me off. What do you like most in a story? What do you barely pay attention to in the story? What do you think? Do these things make you want to continue reading also if done properly? Or are there other things that you look for?

Have a great day. Read a book and laugh.


  1. I'm with you on 3 our of 4. I think it does help to have a strong villain, but I can think of several really good books that have lots of conflict with out a really evil bad guy, some without even a bad guy. (Although, good villains are interesting).

  2. I agree with all you've said. I'd like to also add white space. I know that sounds funny. But when I come to pages that are full of words with very little white space I find myself cringing. I think it slows down the pace of the story when you hit a wall of narration. I need dialogue to help move things along.

  3. Yes, there has to be a compelling antagonist. I also look for quality of prose--the way a writer puts together sentences.

  4. I agree Beth, the villian does not have to be a person. But I think the villian/antagonist must be a formidable one for the protag.

    Kelly, so true. And I cringe too. Honestly, I sometimes skip some of the narration in a book - well, after the first couple ch.s. I don't want to miss anything in the beginning. But towards the end, I skim- sometimes.

    Catherine, that is true also. I knew everyone could think of other things that I didn't mention. The prose are also key. And the sign of a seasoned writer.

  5. Thank you so much for this. I found the links to be incredibly helpful. I'm so stuck right now and this is shedding some of the blur. Thanks again!

  6. I'm very happy to help, Elizabeth.

  7. Hi Dawn, I agree with your points on characters and villains but I guess the first that hits me about whether or not this story is one I'd want to keep on reading, is the author's voice. I get blown away with strong voices!

    Thanks for this post! It has provoked more reminders on writing a good story for me.

  8. Claudine, I absolutely agree. My list is only a starter. There are so many things that make a story great...and voice is essential to the overall feel of the story.

  9. What moves me is the storytelling. It matters little to me if the character is tall, thin, with scabby knees... if there was a tree to the left or mud beneath their feet, whether the event or events occurred in Timbuktu or Mars... I just want to know what the heck happened. Like them old, two, three, let's wrap it up and please make that ending a gram slam. Isn't this the whole point of telling a story? To tell a story.

    However, it is true... reading is a preferential personal thing. I guess something like eating. Perhaps few of us eat with the thought that the purpose of eating is to survive. We mostly talk about taste and quality of taste...ugh...until we're faced with circumstances that teaches us the real purpose of food.

    ...nice content. I'll try to stop back and visit more.

  10. RYCJ, while I do agree that the storytelling is important- most important in fact I think we're basically saying the same thing.

    All of the things I listed are signs of good storytelling. When I say good characters I am not talking about physical description. I'm talking about how representative that character is to a real live person. If a character in a book does not seem real - the story won't either. And suspending the belief of the reader is what its about.

    You use food as an example, I can too. Unless you are starving and have no real source of food you will accept the scraps left for the dog. But if you are not starving and wasting away, you want something a little less consistent with rubber. You want something that makes your mouth water... So it is with books. The flavor of the food is the same as the elements I mention to make the story great. The story can't be great without great elements. Just as the food can't be great without good/fresh ingredients.

    I'm sorry but the food analogy...Well, I know food is for sustenance and all but it must taste good to me. LOL

    I do enjoy these types of comments as they give me a chance to really think about things. Please do come back and comment.

  11. Hm, I'm not sure I should put my real name with that stoning caveat; all that some-truth-in-jest thing, right?
    I'll think it over while I make my post-related comment, which is that you struck me with what you said about struggling to recreate a lost post. I'm always amazed by people who can do that effortlessly, because I think my mind truly has a limited number of slots and once I put something down in writing, a new thought slides right in. Paper gets lost; brilliant idea gone forever.
    Now, I was going to sign this with an alias, but I seem to have forgotten why...

  12. All of the elements you listed are key to developing a good story. Reading is a great way to hone in on how that's done. Some of the classics are definitely good reads for that.

  13. For me it is characters and their chemistry. If it’s not there I get easily distracted and likely not finish the book. The arc of the story is equally important to me, as well as what change takes place for the protag.. I think the villain has to be strong enough to keep the protag focused and moving. Also important to me is dialogue. I always have a book in hand. I've been here before, but I am 'offically dropping by' on the blog tour.

  14. Shelly, I asure you you're safe. But thanks for giving your real name **rubs hands together menacingly* I'll save the stones for next time...jkjk

    Hey, Tosh. Reading is a great way to hone your craft.

    Hi, Brenda. Yeah, I know you. You've commented a couple times - I think - not that there aren't any other Brenda's who could have commented... LOL Glad you came by. Stop by as much as your heart desires. And please comment.


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