What Makes a Great Read?

Today, I will like to discuss the basics of a novel: what makes it good and why. A novelist is a storyteller, plain and simple, and being a storyteller does not mean you must be the best editor of grammar and style (though knowing the basics of grammar is necessary).

What makes a great read are your characters. The hero and heroine must have well rounded personalities, so readers can easily identify with them. The best way to do this is to interview your character. Yup, I said interview them and discover who they really are. Here are some great questions to get you going:

What do they look like? Are they attractive, plain, tall, short, thin, fat?  What are their names? Where are they from? What are their quirks and habits? What is their family background? Have they had a good up bringing? What frightens them? What are their strengths and weaknesses?

Basically, you must find out every little detail about your characters. It’s great if you can determine what sort of tragedy (if any) has happened in their life. This last thought brings us to our next topic of what makes a great read: Conflict.

Conflict in a novel is your best friend. The more you add; the better. I know you love your hero and want him to succeed, but throw him in as many predicaments you can without over doing it. Now, there are two kinds of conflict you should know: Internal and external conflict.

Internal conflict deals with what is going on within your character emotionally and psychologically. Here’s an example: Your main character has finally found his match, but his recently tattered heart won’t allow him to either trust women or feel comfortable with anything risky like matrimony. Internal conflict can aid in creating external conflict.

External conflict is exactly what it says. It deals with tension outside of you characters mind. Remember your tattered hero? Maybe he is robbed and beaten on the same day he becomes bankrupt. This, again, ties in with internal conflict because emotionally the hero will believe he is not worthy or capable to support a wife.

Now the best sort of conflict is tension between your hero and heroine. Make them angry, make them fight, yet struggle to protect one another. Now, think back to all your relationships and try to remember what sort of tension there was and put it in your novel. The best sort of conflict is sometimes cultivated from experience because you can really dig into it, and make the reader squirm as the tension tightens and tightens. For example, My husband and I were not exactly pals when we met. He annoyed me with his jokes and often made fun of me, and in return, I behaved badly toward him, if our paths ever crossed, which they did–continuously!

Dialogue. This is very important.  To make your characters believable, you must write the dialogue according to their personality. If my character was a sophisticated, business man with an arrogant nose, I wouldn’t write him speaking like this:

“Ohh my goshh! I–like–totally missed that meeting ’cause Judy ruined my best, favorite pants in the world. Ya’know, the cute ones I always wear. Duh!”

This sounds more like a teenage girl from the valley and not like a snooty, business man. Remember, real people speak differently than they write. I try to keep up with grammar when I write, but sometimes I don’t speak it. Wherever you live, there is always some kind of accent or slang that is unique to your city, state, country, etc. If you aren’t good with dialogue, try sitting in a crowded room or restaurant–somewhere where many people are chatting away–and listen. Take a note pad and pen with you and write down what you hear, especially slang, accents, and anything that may be significant or unique to a certain type of person.

Thanks you guys for listening. Yup, I said you guys even though Texans are known to say y’all. This reminds me to say, that no matter what kind of stereotypes there are, it almost isn’t fully correct. If you do write about someone from Texas, remember we all speak differently according to what region of Texas we are from. Some speak ‘normal’ and others do have a country accent. Way in the heart of this great state are people who do speak like Boomhauer from the t.v. show, King of the Hill, which sounds almost like gibberish to everyone else. So thanks again, everyone, and I hope this post helps you become a better storyteller.

Happy Writing!

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