Things I Look for in a Novel

Author: Anastasia V. Pergakis // Category:

Annie made a post about this over at Dutch Hill News and I just could not resist doing the same!

"Each one of us is different in what they like or dislike. What I can't stand someone else might love, and vice versa. What are you looking for in a book? Let's compare notes!"

Okay Annie! Here is my comparison!

1. Characters that make me wish they were real people (or glad they aren't!).
I love reading stories where the characters are so real or so great that I wish they were real, that they could sit next to me and chat like friends. This does not apply to only human characters. Faeries, elves, dragons, vampires, whatever - if they are great, then I'd love to be able to talk to them. Then of course there are the awesome villians that make me SO glad they aren't real. The type that just give me the chills long after I close the book!

How does this happen you ask? Well they need to be unique for starters. While in romance novels all the male leads can usually be clasified as "tall, dark, and handsome" how is one different from the other? Even villians needs to have their own unique story! I don't necessarily need to relate to the characters, but it is extremely rare that I find one that I can't.

2. A solid and concise plot.
If I don't think about the story during the times when I'm not reading it, chances are that I won't pick it up again any time soon. Yes, I am the type that I just have to finish a book no matter how bad it is! I always have the thought that there was a reason why they left out such seemingly crucial information or that it'll get better, things will start to make sense. But, if I dream about the book and think about it when I'm not reading - then I'll pick it up again at the first chance! If it's good enough, I put off doing the laundry or dishes in order to read more!

Mystery novels are my favorite and I think it's because with all the tension and unanswered questions, I can really get hooked. No, mystery novels are not the only ones that do this for me, but I have found that even badly written mysteries give me the same feeling. I just have to know what happens next! Leave me guessing at the end of the chapter and I'm sure to turn the page to read the next one!

3. Settings where I feel like I'm there!
I have put books down for a long time because I just couldn't get into the scene. I write Fantasy novels myself, and I know how detailed scenery and setting needs to be to make it believable. Put me IN the book! I want to feel like I am a fly on the wall watching things as they happen. I want to forget that I'm reading a book. I want to experience a story!

It's all in the details! Sure, if a writer says the word castle, I already form a full picture in my mind of what a castle looks like. But are all castles the same? Of course not! What things are hanging on the wall? Is it built of something other than stone? What sort of security (gates, guards, towers,) do they have? And of course, don't just list the details either. SHOW me through character interaction. If a character in a high stress situation wouldn't notice how the flags were flying in the breeze, then I don't need to know either!

4. Magical elements.
Do I mean like wizards and spells? Not always. Magical things include ideals like love conquers all, love at first sight, honor, chilvalry, etc. But, the key is to make it convincing. Disney gets away with this in my opinion because - well they're Disney. In a novel though? I need to really feel that it's real and possible. Love at first sight is hard to explain. Don't just tell they did - SHOW me, CONVINCE me. Is it possible? Well that depends on the writer!

Of course, I love novels that also have spells, ghosts, magic, etc. The best part is when the writer makes it so believable! I believe there is magic every where, even in the real world, but writers still need to fully convince me of the magic in their novels.

5. New traditions and cultures.
I love reading sci-fi novels and fantasy novels where the writer brings in a whole new race with their own culture, traditions, and even religion! Granted, they must be unique and believable or I lose interest.

Does this apply to only sci-fi/fantasy novels? NO! I don't know all their is to know about Earth's peoples! The point is, to make me believe it - even if it's true! It's all in how it's presented and detailed. The truth can easily sound like a lie, if it's said (in this case written) the wrong way. But I love learning about different cultures and beliefs. It is great to see some familiar ones in stories or even new ones! I'll say it again though - I have to believe the truth!

This was a great idea Annie! Let's see how many other folks we can get blogging about it!

10 Responses to "Things I Look for in a Novel"

Annie McMahon Says :
March 30, 2010 at 2:29 PM

Wow, you're quick! Great post, Harley.

I like when you said, "The point is, to make me believe it - even if it's true!" Haha! Sometimes truth is harder to believe than fiction, isn't it?

Tamara Hart Heiner Says :
March 30, 2010 at 3:20 PM

characters are one of the biggest draws for me.That can't be all of it, but if I don't like the MC, it's pretty much over.

When I was a kid I remember being so influenced by characters/circumstances, that I would lay awake in my bed flooding my mind with them,hoping to have dreams about them. That way I could interact with them.

Harley D. Palmer Says :
March 30, 2010 at 6:16 PM

Annie - it is sometimes! It's weird how that happens.

Tamara - If the story is written well, I don't have to flood my mind - I just dream about them at some point or another. They usually somehow interact with me or one of MY characters, which makes for some inspiring (or just plain odd) moments!

Anthony J Langford Says :
March 30, 2010 at 8:32 PM

Yeah, cool post. Look there's merit in all of those. For me, i like a bit of meat. I want a really good character who is torn up in some way. I want a bit of insight into the human condition. That's the type of material I like to write so thats what I seek out. It could be a classic or something new. As John Lennon said, 'Gimme some Truth.'

Mia Says :
March 30, 2010 at 9:06 PM

Great Post! Number 1 is especially important to me.

I'll play if that's ok!

Harley D. Palmer Says :
March 31, 2010 at 3:20 AM

Of course it's okay Mia! Just link back to Annie's blog since she's the originator of this thing!

Dawn Embers Says :
March 31, 2010 at 5:08 AM

This was a good question and you gave a great answer. Very concise and detailed. I agree with you on many elements of what to look for in a book. It's also a good reminder to writers, considering what the readers want.

Thanks for the great comment on my blog. You're awesome too!

Anonymous Says :
March 31, 2010 at 9:35 AM

All very good items to kook for. Forming an affinity with a character is vital because you want the reader to care about them and if something bad takes place you're up in arms. The protagonist has to be someone I love to hate. Its a love hate relationship with the characters.

Settings are crucial and I take a lot of time researching and visiting real places, eating the food at a restaurant characters visit, even getting the weather correct. Amazing how often some authors get this wrong.

Stephen Tremp

Harley D. Palmer Says :
March 31, 2010 at 10:53 AM

Aww thanks Dawn!

Yes, the weather can be a key element Stephen. Thanks for the comment and for becoming a follower! I look forward to seeing you around!

Anonymous Says :
March 31, 2010 at 10:34 PM

Great post. For #1, I love it when the characters stay with me after I put a book down because they seemed so real.

I love mysteries. I don't write them myself, but they taught me a lot about creating suspense.

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