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message 1: by Sara (new)

Sara (saraborgard) | 40 comments and, what makes a bad one?

I wish I could remember which book asked this of its readers, possibly Chris Baty's No Plot No Problem, but regardless, there was a part, in whatever book it was, that suggested something helpful in writing a decent novel is to make a list of what you believe constitutes a good novel and what constitutes a bad novel.

Do you (and really, this question is for everyone, would be interesting to see what we all believe makes a good novel and what makes a bad one) have such a list, whether written or in your head, that helps you along in your writing?

I wrote a list some time ago (though I'm still working on that forcing myself to actually sit and write part...haha), the following are things I feel make a good novel:

Quirky characters - odd tastes in style, fashion, humor, fun, prone to irrational phobias while realizing they are prone to irrational phobias, facetiousness

Feisty old people - young at heart, honest, outspoken, eccentric (think Maude in Harold and Maude)


Justice served

Makes the reader think, stirs emotions


Odd collections

Humorous narration

Realization of something bigger

Surprises/things unexpected

"Short and sweet" description

Tight spots (and it's hard to say that without laughing thinking of George Clooney in O Brother, Where Art Thou? haha)

Things I feel make a "bad" or boring novel:

Dull characters

Too much description

Haughty or pretentious narration


Crappy endings that make me mad

Selfish characters

Too much romance

Characters/narration that makes me feel the author is trying to hide the fact their crappy story is actually their autobiography

Characters that do things that aren't logical/don't make sense

Passive characters/don't do anything to change their situation or life

While some of the things on my "bad" list may seem "Well, duh" I seriously wrote the "bad" list with certain books in mind because, yes, the author actually did some of those things....

message 2: by S.G. (last edited Feb 25, 2012 10:05AM) (new)

S.G. (sgbrowne) | 110 comments Mod
While I don't make a list, or keep one in my head, while I'm working on a project, I'd say the biggest thing I'm aware of is keeping it honest. Which is to say, keeping the story and the characters honest to everything that's come before. Especially when it comes to the third act.

As for what makes a novel good or bad, I'm dubious about classifying it as such, since I've known people who have liked books I haven't cared for and I've read reviews of novels that I thought were poorly written that others found fun and entertaining. So apparently for some, a good story trumps good writing.

Personally, if I'm engaged by either the voice, the story, or the characters, I'll keep reading. I don't need all three to work but when they do, then, to me, it's a good or great book.

But as I always say, writing, like any art form, is subjective in nature. As soon as you start to qualify it as good or bad with an objective set of rules or guidelines, then it ceases to become art.

My two cents. And great question. I may be inspired to do another blog post.

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