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What makes a good book great?

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message 1: by Karey (last edited Apr 29, 2008 12:02PM) (new)

Karey (kareyshane) | 205 comments Mod
What are your thoughts? I'm not sure, but in my opinion, here are the big ones: story structure, strong character archetypes, a strong power or rule-based power at work in a story that is evident right from the start.

(Think of the TV series, Monk, or Will Ferrell in Stranger than Fiction. Their lives are run by rules), ordering of incidents, meaning, etc.

message 2: by Talia (new)

Talia The books that have always been great to me are one's that make me see something, anything in a new way. Malcolm X was that type of book. It completely changed my opinion of him and of his struggle. I read it in high school and to this day it's still the bar to which I compare all other books.

message 3: by Ann (last edited Apr 29, 2008 08:22AM) (new)

Ann (annhite) | 2 comments I think you have to know the rules to break them. But when the rules are broken art begins. Take Run by Ann Patchett. The unspoken and somtimes spoken rule is a novel covers a long period of time. Run covers a 24 hour period.

I think as a writer I have to be willing to step out of the box and just write.


message 4: by Pauline (new)

Pauline (paulinebairdjones) | 5 comments I read to be entertained. I love a book that makes me forget I'm a writer and sucks me in to the story, one that makes me both happy with the ending, but sad the story is over. And if they can make me laugh? Then I'm a fan. :-)

message 5: by A.J. (new)

A.J. Hampton | 1 comments The box. I loved your comment Ann. It’s so true. Being able to step outside of yourself and just write is crucial.

I feel good elements of a story blur lines and keep things fresh. I'm not a fan of rules, and while fiction does need some structure, I find my favorite books are written from authors who have taken a chance and pushed the limits.

message 6: by Karey (new)

Karey (kareyshane) | 205 comments Mod
Woops! I don't mean rules as in "writing rules"...I mean that a story has rules in it that need breaking. Does that make more sense?

message 7: by Jaime (new)

Jaime | 2 comments I see a good book as great when it teaches me new ways to think about writing and how stories can be told. This is how I feel about Jeffrey Eugenides' book Middlesex. It experiments with point of view. At one point, the narrator even talks directly to the reader. It's fun to see how an author can break the rules successfully.

message 8: by Rachel (new)

Rachel As a writer, a great book is one that makes me forget I'm a writer!

As a reader, I love books with strong characters, larger than life situations, and a satisfying ending. I like stories that are "real to life" but with all the action and opportunities most of us don't really get - like winning American Idol or marrying a prince.

Over all, a good book is composed of strong, three dimensional characters and a story line with lots of conflict and tension!


message 9: by Robin (new)

Robin Caldwell (robincaldwell) | 1 comments I need to be sucked into the story too! And not in an escapist kind of way, but rather in a way that allows me to be a witness to its unfolding. I need to see it so clearly -- like watching a movie. And I need my intellect engaged. Great question...

message 10: by Ann (new)

Ann | 6 comments The ability to tell story well is paramount, obviously. And as the other Ann said, knowing how to break story convention is very important and adds yet another layer to the reading experience.

I have a more simple litmus test about great art of all kinds. Is it alive and do I feel its passion?

I feel a great book always possesses a sense of urgency and passion. As a reader I want to know on a cellular gut level that the author would be torn in half (or at the very least fundamentally tormented) if they hadn't shared this story. That raw need can make even less than perfectly told stories great.

On a human level and as an artist, that urgency and life-force makes me burn.

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