The Irresistible Draw – What Makes a Book Interesting
This week, Steph Nickel shares the criteria she believes makes a book interesting. Of course, it makes for interesting reading!
What Makes a Book Interesting
I have a number of books on the go. Plus, I’ve been watching a number of movies and series on Netflix.
Today, instead of reviewing one book, I’m going to share themes and elements that draw me to a book (or TV show), no matter the genre.
Characters I Feel Strongly About
I’ve mentioned before that a novel must have at least one character I feel strongly about. And, of course, it’s important that I care about the protagonist.
As an editor, I once read a young client’s novel and found myself cheering internally when the antagonist finally captured her at the end of the book. I know how awful that sounds, but she was definitely not a protagonist I cared about.
As you can tell, I wasn’t emotionally invested in this character’s life. There is an expression in fiction writing, “too stupid to live.” Unkind? Yes. And we definitely don’t want to apply that phrase to a flesh and blood person, but it’s often the case in novels.
If I’m not emotionally invested in the story, I have a tough time pushing on. I’ve mentioned previously that I actually sobbed when I read the last chapter of Stephenie Meyer’s The Host. (The epilogue dried my tears, but I must admit the last chapter was cathartic, emotionally purging.
Very few books have affected me this dramatically, but it is a memorable experience.
Contemporary genre fiction. Literary fiction. Fantasy. Suspense. Clean romance.
It doesn’t matter what genre, if the characters aren’t believable and relatable, I am far less inclined to push through to the end of the book. There are so many others sitting on my To Be Read pile and coming to my attention all the time.
Today, my examples come from both books I’ve enjoyed and books I haven’t.
I remember reading a novel years ago that I took to my writers’ group as an example of how not to write. The male protagonist was so wishy washy! He changed his mind countless times without significant motivation.
With all fiction, readers are asked to believe The Big Lie.
Authors are invited to take us into a make-believe world, sometimes with unique creatures and laws of physics.
However, if all members of a certain fantasy race have orange blood and one inexplicably has blue blood … the author better give us a believable reason or they’ve lost us. We, the readers, have been tossed out of the story, and we may find it difficult to get back into it.
Characters Who Mature and Grow
Of course we expect the main character to change throughout the course of book, but they must do so in a way that is true to their nature, which of course, to an extent, is fluid and constantly developing.
I want to believe the characters will continue to live their lives, to mature and grow, after I close the book for the final time. I don’t want everything tied up with a big red bow.
As I’m sure you can tell characters and their interpersonal relationships are important to me. After all, I’m all about relationships in real life.
The Importance of Relationships and …
However, to keep me flipping pages way past bedtime, the forward momentum, the action, must propel me forward.
This is also why I’d much rather watch action adventure and fantasy than drama.
Believable, relatable, evolving characters caught in compelling situations … this kind of book will draw me in, and if written especially well, will cause me to set the others aside until I’m done.
What attracts you to a book?
What grabs you by the throat and won’t let go?
What keeps you reading even if it’s a struggle to get into a book at first?
Stephanie is a freelance writer and a contributor to our Christian internet radio station, HopeStreamRadio.
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