While procrastinating I started thinking over what makes a good book, here are my thoughts:
No matter our preferred genre we all want a good story when reading. Let’s be honest we don’t want to read a book with a boring story where nothing happens, and the plot goes nowhere, as readers we like twists and turns, suspense and action, we like surprises and to be entertained. The story doesn’t have to be original or even contain new ideas, it can be a standard and stereotypical story that’s been done many times before, but it needs to be executed well. And let’s be honest, while there are some new ideas floating around, it’s hard to be completely original in today’s day and age, when most things to some degree have already been done before.
Perhaps only a small thing but I believe it’s also of importance. The synopsis gives us a little snippet and overview of the story contained within the pages of a book.
The synopsis itself is used to lure readers in, if you read the synopsis on the back of the book, are intrigued by the premise and interested in the hints of the story, then you’ll be more likely to buy the book. Whereas if you read the synopsis and immediately think snorefest you’ll quite probably ignore the book.
A snorefest synopsis would be:
Drew went to work, it was boring, he worked tirelessly and diligently for the whole shift, then he went home.
On his way home he passed an elderly lady, looked like a customer from work, being a gentleman he offered to help her.
Somewhere a dog howled, he made it to his house, kicked back and chilled, just another exciting day in the life of a Tesco worker, rinse and repeat for tomorrow folks!
A captivating synopsis would be:
Drew went to work, machine gunned sarcastic comments galore to make the shift go by quicker and to annoy the PC brigade, it was fun galore…..little did he know it would be his last shift and that by the end of the day, his life would be changed forever.
On his way home he passed an elderly crone, looked like a customer from work, standing there in the middle of the road, vacant, dead, malevolent red eyes staring, blood dribbling down her mouth, but what really caught his attention was the gaping, oozing, cavernous, pulsing hole in the side of her neck.
Somewhere in the distance a dog howled, the sound of the sorrow and loss echoing in the resulting silence. Then the crone spoke, her voice rasping like brittle leaves caught in the fading breeze ‘evil walks amongst us’ and that was when the world went to shit……
Most authors have there own style of writing, some flowery, some poetic and some quite straight to the point and blunt. Regardless of the genre we are reading, or even the style in which the author writes, saying that a book is well-written is very subjective, we all have different views on what a ‘well-written’ book includes, perfect grammar, spelling and punctuation (you sure as hell, will never find those things on this blog), the correct usage of words, entertaining storytelling, an ability by the author to write engaging characters, descriptive writing to enhance the setting and story, witty and meaningful dialogue and also to evoke emotion in the reader, etc.
What we deem to be ‘well-written’ depends entirely on our personal taste.
The book needs to move along at a decent pace, you shouldn’t be left with the feeling that certain events happened to quickly, and were simply glazed over. Likewise the book shouldn’t drag either.
It doesn’t matter if the actual pacing is slow or fast, not every book needs to be a 1000 mile per hour page turner with plenty of action and cataclysmic events happening on every page. Sometimes a slow and sedate pace works just as well, it is finding the balance within the pages and as such, the pacing and flow needs to be right for the story being told.
5. World Building/Setting.
Perhaps at its most prevalent in the fantasy genre but also of importance in other genres to.
The setting of the story and the world need to feel alive, vividly imagined and vibrant in detail. You want to be able to immerse yourself in the created world.
For fantasy you want the world to be rich in history and lore, myth and legend, full of races and fantastical creatures.
For the thriller type of books you would want to feel the setting of the books, the dark and dank cells where the victim is kept, the eery foggy night, etc, descriptive to make the setting alive.
Simply put, you need to be able to picture the world/setting where the story takes place.
For me the characters are at the core of any book, they need to be three-dimensional, fully fleshed with individual personalities, and not two-dimensional cardboard cut outs. Love them, hate them, root for them, hope that they get what they deserve, the main characters need to illicit emotion in the reader, you need to care about them and their fate otherwise what’s the point in reading about them?
7. The Hook.
The hook itself could be anything, for a lot of people it’s likely to be different, for some it might be a massive event within the book, a character is grievously injured, will they live or die, an epic battle, a huge revelation concerning one of the main characters or perhaps the serial killer strikes again. But for others, it could be something small and trivial, with no actual consequences to the overall story or outcome of the characters, a simple conversation, the description of a landscape, a joke, curse or phrase that makes you laugh, something else that seems inane but grabs you.
The hook is that moment in a book where it transcends from simply being a book that you are reading to something more, it’s when you realise that you care about the outcome of the story, and fate of those you are reading about, finding that you are actually ‘hooked‘ captivated and engrossed in what you are reading, you’ve gained that emotional attachment to the characters and the book.
A mention also has to go to the cover. I know it’s a minor thing and that it has nothing to do with the actual material, the words and journey contained within the inside pages. But……lots of us are cover whores (credit goes to Stephy at Teacher of Y-A for teaching me that phrase) and covers are what make a book standout, either on your own bookshelf or in a book shop, it’s only natural that your eye will be drawn to a cover that you find aesthetically pleasing.
So my fellow bookish people, do you agree?? Disagree?? What makes a good book for you??
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