PDA

View Full Version : What makes a good book to you?



MikeThierry
05-12-2013, 07:01 AM
I'm just trying to take the temperature of the Reds Zone members as it pertains to what makes a great book to you. The reason I'm asking is that I'm starting to write a fiction book of my own and have a general idea of what I want to do with it. However, I would still like some input as to what draws you in as a reader. It would help me a bit in narrowing out some of the themes I'm working on.

TSJ55
05-12-2013, 11:33 AM
My reading comes from all parts of the spectrum. Zombie Apocalypse Trilogies to Anatomy Textbooks.

As for the fiction I've read and really enjoyed, I loved World War Z by Max Brooks. It was extremely intelligent for a sub-genre that I usually refer to as my guilty pleasure. I learned some world geography and politics along the way so that kept me engaged to be sure.

My favorite fiction book of all time though is Rant by Chuck Palahniuk. I also read his Choke and it was OK. Rant kept me guessing throughout trying to figure out exactly what the hell was going on. Kinda had a Usual Suspects ending which is always cool. Also, I'm a pretty vulgar person so the humor in the book was spot on for me.

Good luck with the book. That would be a very cool, but arduous, task to take on. Rewarding though I'm sure.

MikeThierry
05-12-2013, 07:58 PM
My reading comes from all parts of the spectrum. Zombie Apocalypse Trilogies to Anatomy Textbooks.

As for the fiction I've read and really enjoyed, I loved World War Z by Max Brooks. It was extremely intelligent for a sub-genre that I usually refer to as my guilty pleasure. I learned some world geography and politics along the way so that kept me engaged to be sure.

My favorite fiction book of all time though is Rant by Chuck Palahniuk. I also read his Choke and it was OK. Rant kept me guessing throughout trying to figure out exactly what the hell was going on. Kinda had a Usual Suspects ending which is always cool. Also, I'm a pretty vulgar person so the humor in the book was spot on for me.

Good luck with the book. That would be a very cool, but arduous, task to take on. Rewarding though I'm sure.

The idea I'm fleshing out has a ton of politics, back stabbing, Machiavellian type ideas to it.

Thank you by the way.

Joseph
05-12-2013, 08:44 PM
Don't make the protagonist a Cards fan.

I don't know how to explain HOW to do this, but keep the reader guessing, not with weird plot twists that make no sense, but do the unexpected at least.

bucksfan2
05-12-2013, 09:08 PM
I like political thrillers or mystery books. I read for enjoyment so I really don't want to labor through a book, no matter how highly acclaimed it is. Give me a book that has a good flow to it with some good twists.

Some of my favorite books (authors) do a very good job of character development. If you can create a memorable and likeable character it makes reading the book much more enjoyable.

SunDeck
05-12-2013, 09:48 PM
Solid writing. I can't get through a Dan Brown novel, but put one of Patrick O'Brian's books in my hands I'll read it cover to cover without a thought. The difference I think between these two writers in particular is that one of them did the homework to make all the details believable and one does not. One knew his characters like his own family and one just makes it up as he goes along.

MikeThierry
05-12-2013, 10:11 PM
Don't make the protagonist a Cards fan.

I don't know how to explain HOW to do this, but keep the reader guessing, not with weird plot twists that make no sense, but do the unexpected at least.

Oh darn... I was going to make him a Cardinals fan :D

Just joking.

marcshoe
05-13-2013, 12:11 AM
An immersive experience is what makes a book good for me. This usually involves characters I care about. If a character is compelling enough, I can overlook plot holes.

When I think about a book even when I'm not reading it, that's a good sign.

MikeThierry
05-13-2013, 12:59 AM
What makes a character compelling to you all? He he/she always good and is noble or can a flawed character be more intriguing? Can the character be a complete jerk and you would still find him/her engaging?

EDIT: The reason why I'm asking that question is because the main character I'm formulating is the kind of character that is torn between doing what's right and doing the pragmatic thing. He has to do things that are unpleasant in a leadership role. However, I don't want to make him so cruel at times that he's unlikable to the reader. Where is that fine line at?

SunDeck
05-13-2013, 07:28 AM
I think a character can be flawed and still be sympathetic. In fact, that may be a necessity; otherwise the character isn't realistic.

chicoruiz
05-13-2013, 08:04 AM
I like books that put me in a time, place or situation that I otherwise wouldn't experience in life. Novels about some average American guy experiencing middle-age angst tend to leave me cold...

medford
05-13-2013, 02:41 PM
I think the character can be as cold and calculating or as warm and welcoming as you like. However, they need to be "interesting" and have "interesting" things sorround them. Of course "interesting" is hard to define as its different for all people, or even chacaters.

To me, a formula that seems to work to my interst is to have several "interesting" characters, some good, some bad obviously and develo the story thru oppossing view points. If your character has conflicting personalities, and interesting take could be to have alternating chapters b/w his good side and his dark side, perhaps w/o informing the reader of what they are experiencing until they figure it out for themselves.

If we're talking fiction, I like chapters that are short, 20 pages or less. You start getting above that, it the chapter doesn't make for a "quick" read. You get a handful of 5-6 page chapters followed by a 30 page chapter, that works, I just find a series of 30-40 page chapters more difficult to get thru.

Its fiction, so obviously the sorroundings don't have to be authentic, but they need to feel authentic. By that, you can get away with having sub machine guns in 18th century france, but you need to get into the details on why you have sub machine guns in 18th century france, how that changes what we view as history, etc... I find that the more detailed the sorroundings get, the more emersive the story feels.

MikeThierry
05-14-2013, 12:13 AM
I think the character can be as cold and calculating or as warm and welcoming as you like. However, they need to be "interesting" and have "interesting" things sorround them. Of course "interesting" is hard to define as its different for all people, or even chacaters.

To me, a formula that seems to work to my interst is to have several "interesting" characters, some good, some bad obviously and develo the story thru oppossing view points. If your character has conflicting personalities, and interesting take could be to have alternating chapters b/w his good side and his dark side, perhaps w/o informing the reader of what they are experiencing until they figure it out for themselves.

If we're talking fiction, I like chapters that are short, 20 pages or less. You start getting above that, it the chapter doesn't make for a "quick" read. You get a handful of 5-6 page chapters followed by a 30 page chapter, that works, I just find a series of 30-40 page chapters more difficult to get thru.

Its fiction, so obviously the sorroundings don't have to be authentic, but they need to feel authentic. By that, you can get away with having sub machine guns in 18th century france, but you need to get into the details on why you have sub machine guns in 18th century france, how that changes what we view as history, etc... I find that the more detailed the sorroundings get, the more emersive the story feels.

Wow, that is exactly spot on. Very good analysis. I think your explanation is why an epic book like Game of Thrones works out so well. While the book is long, the chapters are short, almost like small vignettes, and the characters are evil at times while good at other times.

IslandRed
05-14-2013, 10:34 AM
Fiction is all about storytelling. Same principles -- hooks, balance, pacing, the payoff at the end.

Every writer understands the hook concept, the need to create interesting characters and situations and engage the reader early. (This goes hand in hand with the related problem, "can you describe your book in a manner that fits on a dust jacket or in an Amazon blurb, such that people you don't know will want to read it?") Balance and pacing are hard to do well but they're critical to writing a good book. I would describe balance as the right level of detail and backstory; it's essential to have enough but more is not always better. And pacing is just about keeping the story and the backstory woven together and flowing smoothly, and not tilting too heavily to the backstory early on or saving all the really interesting stuff for the end. The middle part of the book is where good writers really come to the fore.

medford
05-14-2013, 10:46 AM
http://ken-follett.com/masterclass/

That page may be useful to you. I don't know if you've ever read any of Follett's work, but he does an excelant job with pacing. Pillars of the Earth is a huge book, but a very easy read, how often do you get both George Bush and Oprah to agree that a book is amongst their favorites? Both have mentioned Pillars of the Earth as one of their favorites. Code to Zero is not particularly long, about 300-400 pages IIRC, and is broken up in a fashion that I found myself flying thru it unlike any other book I've ever read. The story itself is ok, not great by any means, but if I was heading to the beach, I may be able to finish that book in 2 days, not sure I can say that w/ any other 300-400 page books.

redsfandan
05-15-2013, 05:41 AM
What makes a character compelling to you all? He he/she always good and is noble or can a flawed character be more intriguing? Can the character be a complete jerk and you would still find him/her engaging?

EDIT: The reason why I'm asking that question is because the main character I'm formulating is the kind of character that is torn between doing what's right and doing the pragmatic thing. He has to do things that are unpleasant in a leadership role. However, I don't want to make him so cruel at times that he's unlikable to the reader. Where is that fine line at?

IslandRed already touched on this but I also think backstory can be very important.

Why does the main character do what they do? What motivates them? What makes them the kind of person they are? Including 1-2 things from their past can make it easier for the reader to relate to the kind of person they are and maintain interest.

coachpipe
05-15-2013, 09:38 AM
Characters and story line. I cant put down Under the Dome right now. This book is just a great read

Ohayou
05-15-2013, 11:07 AM
Pictures. Preferably of naked ladies.

Roy Tucker
05-16-2013, 08:34 PM
Great prose. I'm a sucker for a well-turned paragraph that sweeps my mind away from the corporeal world and into the book where everything else fades away and its just me and the story and people and the language.

foxfire123
05-20-2013, 07:18 PM
Not killing off every one of the heroes, which it seems George RR Martin is hell bent on doing in the Game Of Thrones series... :confused:

MikeThierry
05-22-2013, 06:45 AM
Not killing off every one of the heroes, which it seems George RR Martin is hell bent on doing in the Game Of Thrones series... :confused:

He does it in a way which makes sense and doesn't alienate the reader, in my opinion.

MikeThierry
05-22-2013, 06:47 AM
http://ken-follett.com/masterclass/

That page may be useful to you. I don't know if you've ever read any of Follett's work, but he does an excelant job with pacing. Pillars of the Earth is a huge book, but a very easy read, how often do you get both George Bush and Oprah to agree that a book is amongst their favorites? Both have mentioned Pillars of the Earth as one of their favorites. Code to Zero is not particularly long, about 300-400 pages IIRC, and is broken up in a fashion that I found myself flying thru it unlike any other book I've ever read. The story itself is ok, not great by any means, but if I was heading to the beach, I may be able to finish that book in 2 days, not sure I can say that w/ any other 300-400 page books.

Thank you very much for that link. That seems like a very good template or understanding into the thought process of developing a story.

foxfire123
05-22-2013, 10:23 PM
He does it in a way which makes sense and doesn't alienate the reader, in my opinion.

Potential spoiler!




I dunno, that Red Wedding was pretty alienating to me! and Clegane clonking Arya in the head? Cheese and rice! If she's gone too the only ones I've got left to root for are Dani, Jon and Tyrion! and the hope that the little snot nosed inbred scumbag Joffrey dies a very creatively cruel death.

Roy Tucker
05-22-2013, 10:56 PM
Great prose. I'm a sucker for a well-turned paragraph that sweeps my mind away from the corporeal world and into the book where everything else fades away and its just me and the story and people and the language.

e.g. from Barbara Kingsolver's "Lacuna":



The bones of the ancient city radiated heat, but the little river ran a cool thread through its belly. A lizard moved in the grass of the bank, running into the shade of a ledge, coming to rest near a stone that seemed rounded and glossy, even in shadow. That stone was smooth to the touch, and when turned over, revealed itself not as an ordinary pebble but a small, carved figurine. A little man made of jade or obsidian, something ancient, small enough to hide inside a closed hand. A remarkable artifact. It should be turned over to the professor. Obviously it would be wrong to take it from its place.

Every detail of the little figure was perfect: his rounded belly with indented navel, his short legs and fierce face. A headdress that resembled a neat pile of biscuits. Eyes deeply indented under arched brows. And inside his rounded lips, a hole for a mouth, like a tunnel from another time, speaking. I am looking for the door to another world. Iíve waited thousands of years. Take me.