Wednesday, April 20, 2011

What Makes A Story Great?

So I've been doing a lot of reading lately, and I've been thinking (always dangerous). Sometimes I'm reading along, and something amazing happens and I think, I love this book.

Which makes me wonder: What makes a story great? When you're reading, when do you know you love a book? Can you fall out of love after having that I love this book moment?

49 comments:

Vicki Rocho said...

Great questions! I think what makes me fall in love with the book is usually a compelling character or an unusual plot, so once they've hooked me it'd have to completely fall apart to lose me.

Laura Pauling said...

When I get 'I love this' moment it usually stays and I'm willing to overlook other writing sins because there are aspects I love. For me it's usually that connection with the main character and how it was done. What a loaded questions though, srsly.

Natalie Aguirre said...

I usually fall in love when there's a great character and plot. A unique twist on a fantasy story always gets me excited.

Jessica Nelson said...

I think if we could formulate an equation that would equal greatness, everyone would be a bestseller. We can't though, because it's not math and I've read so many different books I thought were great and they didn't have much in common. I've read books who had all the "right" ingredients and I was bored. Wish I knew what made greatness!

cherie said...

Most of the time it's because the book orcother aspects of it (i.e. Characters, settings, plot, voice) resonated with me. I do find that voice is important--if everything else is done well but the voice is lacking, my interest is bound to waver. Not because I'm extremely judgmental but because I'm a reader who's got a whole another stack of novels vying for my attention.

Ha! You made me think as well. Thanks for the stimulation ;D

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I don't know. I've read two books in the past week that I've loved (one you didn't like according to Goodreads), but each I've loved for different reasons (one of which I kind of blogged about today).

But one of the books is City of Fallen Angels, and what can I say? Cassandra Clare is a genius when it comes telling a gripping story with humor (man, I couldn't stop laughing at some scenes) and a sexy love interest. And her use of imaginary . . . well, let's just say I'm super jealous. :)

I'm going to be analyzing the book soon. Maybe then I can give you a more definitive answer.

Christine Danek said...

To me a great character with a great plot. If either disappoint, then I fall out of love.
I think the character really has to win me over then if there are flaws I may overlook them. If that made any sense what so ever. It's morning. :)

Liza said...

I just read a book that pulled me along from page to page, really, forced me to go on because it was so compelling. When I got close to the end, the unresolved issues began to resolve themselves and I was pleased. Seemed like the "Good Guy" was going to win. Except, in the very last paragraph of the book, something hugely unexpected happened and he didn't. Talk about shock value. It left me breathing hard and wondering...Did I like this book? I'm still wondering.

funny in the 'hood said...

I fall in love with a book when I can't put it down. Also, I really like books that don't get bogged down in description and long passages where nothing happens. I need a fast-paced book that keeps me turning pages.

Tracey

Ishta Mercurio said...

Lots of different things make me fall in love with a book, but the biggest thing is when a book tells me something without telling me something. As in, there is socio-political (or other) commentary in the book, but it isn't just outright stated; it's clear from the tone, the setting, the events what the "message" is.

A good example is Zorgamazoo: I was reading along, thinking, "Gee, I REALLY like this book," and then it introduced the idea of tedium steam, which is what leaks out of people's ears when they're bored and not using their imaginations, and I thought, "Okay, now I LOVE this book!" Another example is FEED - I thought it was awesome from the first page, then it started talking about people's lesions, and it was clear how detached everyone was from the physical world, and the book shot right up beyond the stratosphere of awesome and into the "I want to read and re-read and re-read this forever" plane.

Fun books are fun, but for me to really fall in love with them, they have to mean something.

kellyhashway said...

For me, it's when the voice really speaks to me. Then I can't put the book down.

Emily White said...

I usually fall in love with a book when the relationships between characters hits that point where not only do I enjoy reading about it, I wish I could be in that circle of friends.

Wendy Paine Miller said...

When I have to know what happens next to the characters...I'm that invested.
~ Wendy

storyqueen said...

It doesn't happen often, but I have fallen out of love with a book.

What usually happens, though, is that I am lukewarm about a book and then the next thing I know, I am totally loving it.

Shelley

LM Preston said...

I believe that's something personal to each reader. However, strong characters, great world building, a connection with the reader seems to be the formula.

Nisa said...

I think sometimes it depends on our moods, but more generally I tend to love books because I love the characters. I love a lot of books though. I'm probably not a good judge because I tend to look past technical stuff and I, admittedly, skim when there's too much description. I don't let that keep me from loving a book either because I can skim. :)

Jonathon Arntson said...

I haven't narrowed down the cause for the feeling, but I know the books in which it happened: anything by John Green, THE MAZE RUNNER, SWIM THE FLY, GOING BOVINE...I suppose it just hits me.

Matthew MacNish said...

It would have to get really bad to fall back out of love. For me it's usually about a character persevering through great suffering or adversity, but hilarious observation can do the trick as well.

Deb said...

For me it is the character-it's the oh man I love this character moment. I literally stop reading to think it. And the reading slows down. way. down. because. I don't want the story to end.

Michael Di Gesu said...

I'm a character junkie. I fall for the characters more than the plot. I also love amazing chemistry between characters, if that lacks then I'm history.

marissameyer said...

I agree with so many comments - voice and character and strong writing are all so imporant. But for me, I think that "I love this!" moment comes when it occurs to me that I have never read ANYTHING like this before. A truly unique story can be hard to come by these days, and it always excites me when I find one.

Jenilyn Tolley said...

Usually for me, it's the point where I truly care about what happens to the characters that I can't put the book down.

But, yes, I have fallen out of love with a book. A specific one comes to mind that began as a lighthearted, silly book and ended up being serious to the point of melodrama. It didn't work for me. It's also a problem I often have with series--I fall in love with the first book and then like the rest of the books less and less.

Chelsey said...

There's usually a moment for me that I can pinpoint. Like, with Anna and the French Kiss it's the Batman scene. But sometimes it's the feeling I get while reading, that I'm connecting with characters, that it's validating something, making me think about something.

Katie Mills said...

I love books that bring me out of my world and into theirs. Books that make me feel powerful emotions I wouldn't have felt otherwise. I do think you can fall 'out' of love with a book after that moment but it's rare.

Patti said...

For me, I can tell a story is great when I carry that book around with me everywhere I go and I can't put it down.

lynnrush said...

For me it's the characters. I gotta love them. Want more and more of them. I need to feel their emotions!! I love watching them suffer, grow, morph into better people! That's what makes me love a book!! :)

Shannon O'Donnell said...

That's a great question, with no hard and fast answer. I fell in love with Rosslyn Elliot's book slowly, as the language and beauty of the writing lulled me. With Savannah Grey (my current wow book) I was hooked by the end of the first page! :-)

Chantele Sedgwick said...

I love really distinct characters with a sense of humor. And a GREAT love story. One of my favorite characters is Sophie from the Hex Hall series. LOVE her! She is hilarious, down to earth and just real! :)

Michelle Merrill said...

I get carsick easy...but when a book is good enough to sneak into the passenger seat, even if we aren't going very far, then it's a keeper. Usually it has to do with romance for me. I love a little romantic tension.

By the way, my cousin's went to the beach and said they found bacon flavored suckers. Next time I'm over there, I'm finding one for you and mailing it. End of story.

Elizabeth Varadan aka Mrs. Seraphina said...

I fall in love with a book when I realize I want to spend time with these characters. I get drawn into their lives. I start caring about their issues. I ponder their problems. And I hate to say goodbye to them.

Sara B. Larson said...

It's hard to put a finger on, but it's a magical combination of an exciting plot that sucks you in, that feels new and different yet somehow a little familiar, characters that I truly love and feel real, and a great love triangle. ;)

Joylene Butler said...

I think the love affair begins when we see ourselves in the story. Pride & Prejudice? Why do we love it all these years later? Because we've had our hearts broken. Because we think we understand what the characters feel. Because we care. At least that's what I feel. Great question, Elana.

Nicole Zoltack said...

Usually the characters. If I feel like I've known the characters my whole life and I care about them and want them to be happy and succeed, that's when I love the book.

Kathryn said...

I was thinking about that on my walk to work this morning, listening to "Girl with the dragon tattoo" on my MP3 player. There are so many different books that break all the rules that we're taught, and they're still fantastic. I don't know if there's a "formula", but it seems to be something that can connect with you, and that's highly subjective right there.

Jocelyn said...

I know I love a book when I can't wait to read more about the characters and their world as soon as I finish it--whether that means a sequel, or just re-reading parts or all of the book.



www.writingsnippets.com

Jennifer said...

I love a book when I find myself thinking about the book when I should be doing other things.

Nicole L Rivera said...

For me, I'm captivated by the voice...so long as something eventually happens. So in order of importance: Voice, Character, Plot. (To me, that is.) I also like stories that dig deep and reveal something to me, i.e. I love Laurie Halse Anderson (Speak, Wintergirls, Fever, Catalyst, Twisted...) She has all the elements. I want to be her when I grow up, lol.

Can't wait to read Possession. I've been hearing tons of awesome buzz on it around the web. Congrats on publishdom!!!

Carrie said...

I think a great character is important for a good story. I like connecting with a character and crying when something bad happens to them and laughing at the funny parts.
Also I think the writing is important. When I take picture book writing classes we learn to make every word count. I think this can be true of novels as well.
But there are books that I cry at the end of simply because I am sad to leave the character or the world the author has created.

Melody Valadez said...

Hmmm, I'm just going to answer the last question with a resounding YES. You can fall out of love with a book. I can remember one in particular that had me absolutely giddy with enjoyment, and a few chapters later I threw it across the room. For reals. Anyway. :)

Janna Qualman said...

It all comes down to voice and style for me. And if those aren't strong enough (or aren't overtaken by a great, great premise), then I often lose interest.

Wishing you the best, Elana!

Jessica Hill said...

I fall in love with a book when I can really connect with the characters and can feel myself in the story.

Once I have the OMG, I love this book moment, I usually don't fall out of love with it, unless the character(s) do something that I can't believe they would do, or if the ending is totally disappointing.

Margo Berendsen said...

Of course everyone's definition of a great book differs, but To Kill A Mockingbird, Lord of the Rings, and Harry Potter show up near the top on an awful lot of goodreads lists, and I have to agree. I think what makes a book great is 1) characters you love 2) something that hasn't been done before 3) great writing.

Tracey Neithercott said...

That's a really hard question. I think it's a mix of voice and character. In plot-driven novels I think it's the unexpected twists or when something surprises me (either the book's premise or a mystery, etc). Actually, a book with all three of those is usually pretty great.

tahlianewland.com said...

I've thought about this one alot. A publisher friend told me this and I think it sums it up pretty well.

'Beautiful writing is when every word is the right word, in its right place and there for a reason. There is nothing extraneous. The words flow so smoothly that the reader is transported beyond the words. They even forget they are reading.'

I love and reread books about worlds I want to spend time in, characters I want to spend time with, and experiences that I want to repeat.

Then there's what I call guts in a story and meaning - not so easy to define.

I have a whole category on this topic on my blog http://tahlianewland.com/category/what-makes-a-good-novel-great/

Becca said...

I think the sign of a great book is when the book stays with you. Maybe you're in the middle of it, anxious to finish reading, or you just read the last page.

To me, it's that feeling where I've finished it and I'm thoroughly depressed, not because the book was bad but because it was over. I don't need more book, I just need to exist in that world for just a little bit longer.

ali said...

Oh, I can TOTALLY fall out of love once I've fallen IN. To.Tal.Ly.

But I have no idea what makes me FALL. It's a lot of little things and it can be DIFFERENT things in different stories, ya know? Just like with guys. With one guy it might be the sparkle in his eye, combined with the way he wears his clothes, mixed with the way he rests his thumb on my wrist. But with another guy, it might be the way his hair falls into my eyes, the way my name sounds when he says it, the way his smile crooks to one side.

Every new love is different!

Donea Lee said...

I'm a sucker for a good love entanglement! :) But, some of my favorite stories also have a magical/fantastical element. They take me somewhere I can't always go myself - and of course, the writing is wonderful, lyrical, descriptive, emotive, just perfect.

I usually only fall a little out of love if the ending doesn't satisfy completely.

Karen Lange said...

I think one thing that makes a book great is a story that I find myself immersed in. You know, to the point where you must read on to find out what happens, but then really don't want it to end either...:)

A Backwards Story said...

If I'm so immersed in a novel I can't put it down, this is a sign of greatness. If I truly *care* about the characters and everyone is well-fleshed-out, this is another sign. A third sign is writing something that sticks with the reader long after he/she has turned the last page...

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