Lately I have been driving myself a little crazy. A little, you say? You are becoming quite sarcastic, my followers. Anyway, I have been trying to determine what makes a book REALLY good. Now, you would think that would be an easy thing to figure out right? Well, I disagree. If that were true, every book we read would be in the ‘not-able-to-put-down-until-you-were-done’ category. And there are plenty of books that I put down (and some that I never pick up again).
So what is it that makes a book special? Plot and/or good hook? Well, I would agree that reading something that is refreshing plays a large role in a good book and if the plot is full of holes then that definitely doesn’t lend itself to being good. But I think it goes beyond that.
Do you want to hear my two cents?
It ultimately has to do with the CHARACTERS. If the characters do not resonate with us then we are watching a two-dimensional farce on stage that doesn’t grab and hold onto our attention.
So what makes a good character…well here are the questions to ask yourself. Do we understand them? Can we empathize with them? Do we have a strong emotional attachment to them (whether it means wanting to be their best friend or their arch-enemy). Can we root for them and want them to change and grow into the person or persons we know they can be? Can we see a little bit of ourselves in these characters?
I read a book recently in one day – it was definitely one of those can’t-put-down books and when I finished the book I was actually sad. Not because the book had a sad ending, but because I knew I wasn’t going to be spending more time with these characters. They had become my friends in a matter of hours. Now THAT is a good book.
So what does that mean for the writer? It means that we have to be creating characters that draw our readers in. They can’t be perfect (who can relate to that?) and they have to allow us to see what is inside (their foibles, desires, fears). WHY they are the way they are and that they CAN change for the better. A lot to think about when your characters come to life on the page. But I am up for the challenge, or so my character tell me.