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  • Patricia Hollett

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What Makes A Good Novel


This week’s blog is about ‘What Makes a Good Novel’.
I conducted some research on the above topic and here’s what I found…

A novel should show the character’s personality. A novel also should have a good story or hook. You need to believe what is happening on the pages. The main quality of a good novel is its ability to make you care about its characters, worry for them, dislike them, pity them, but above all believe in their reality and their journey.
Another obvious quality is the page-turning one. You want to know what happens next in a good novel. Sometimes it depends on the characters and their interactions, but as the plot develops, so do your characters. They redefine themselves, which makes them easier or harder to like, they need to be tested, questioned, and they need to grow.
Sometimes the things that make a good novel are the hardest to pinpoint. After finishing a novel, your mind keeps returning to what happened or stayed with you, or you remember certain things that you enjoyed about it. It’s those extra elements, a layering of sorts, suggesting undercurrents, which give you the satisfaction of the story.
Detail is additionally important for the reader to create a picture in their mind. And, without this we wouldn’t be able to envision the world that our characters and story take place in.
Novels are certainly about people, but they’re also about indefinable forces.

It’s hard to pick just one thing that makes a good novel, but I asked several Authors/Writer friends to answer the question below and pick only ONE thing they think makes a good novel, and they all came up with something great. Here’s the question, and their answers.

If you could pick one specific thing that you think makes a good novel, what would it be?

Danielle La Paglia (Dannigrrl)
The most important thing for me is a strong voice. I love to look at a story from different sides and decide which voice/POV to use–the killer or the victim or the witness. 1st person, 3rd person, it doesn’t matter as long as the voice is strong and clear. I don’t want a narrator that rambles and I don’t want constant descriptions of scenery and mundane things. I want to feel what that character feels and join them on the ride–the ups, the downs, the surprises, whatever. That’s what draws me in to a novel and keeps me coming back for more.

Anna Krowe (Anna K)
Difficult question, as a good novel is compiled of multiple important factors. But, if I had to pick a single most important element, I would say plot. When people think back on a book, what do they remember most? The way it was written or the story? I say story. If you have a memorable, strong, and unique plotline, you’ve got a good book.

Tammy Crosby (CDNWMN)
For me, a good novel must assume that the reader is somewhat intelligent. There’s nothing worse than a patronizing author.

Gareth (Drosdelnoch)
This is like asking which is the first rain drop that falls, everyone will have a different answer, but to me, the one key element that an author has to get right is the lead character. They have to be well built, be believable and someone that you can empathise with. Fail that and no matter how good the other elements are and you’re at a huge disadvantage to keep the reader hooked.

Lisa Murphy (BookFever)
For me a good novel must have great relationships between characters. Sometimes you’ll see it in the dialogue and at other times in the silences while many things can be discovered in the characters actions. Too much description bores me and I have been known to skip over wordy dull paragraphs in search of the next juicy scene.

Julie Campbell (Firewolf)
Compelling characters doing compelling things.

Anne Michaud (annemichaud)
The author’s voice. It could be the most spectacular premise, unique plot and amazing characters, if the voice is flat and boring, it wrecks dialogues, descriptions, and everything in between. Same thing if the writer tries to ‘replicate’ more than to ‘feel’ – it doesn’t flow and isn’t enjoyable as a read. The craft of writing isn’t copy/paste or generic, it’s Art, must come from within. And what’s more original than a writer’s voice?

Dianne Waye (Diannewaye)
One specific thing that makes a good novel, for me, is an emotional connection to the main character. I want to read a character-driven story, where you laugh and cry along with the hero. Where you cheer for their hard-earned victories. Defeat, triumph, love, hate – I want to feel it, too.

Kelly Metz (bwlrgrl300)
If I could pick one specific thing that I think makes a good novel, it would be the characters. They make or break stories for me. It could be the most outstanding story idea ever imagined, but if I don’t care about the character, I’m not going to read it. The characters need to be real to me, and that doesn’t mean that they need to be sunshine and roses nice. Real means they have faults and problems just like anyone else, and they struggle with them and take me as the reader through their struggles. I want to cheer for their successes, and cry at their losses.

Jessica Peters (psyche_13)
I think that one of the main things in a good novel is the pacing. It has to move at a good clip, without exhausting the reader.

I just want to thank all of you for these brilliant answers. It’s been fun doing this and I hope everyone enjoys reading this as much as I did. It’s been very interesting!
Thank You All!! 🙂

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11 Responses

  1. What a cool post, Pat! Thanks for inviting me to join in. I love to hear what other people think about things like this. There is so much that goes into making a good novel, but we all gravitate toward one thing or another.

  2. Thanks Pat for posting this.
    Everyone’s answers serve as great advice!

  3. Ditto, Lisa!

  4. Thanks for the question Pat, I love the fact that everyone has elements that they have to have and its a great way to make sure that your own writing is up to par.

  5. Thanks for all the great comments. You guys had some fantastic answers and I liked doing this blog. It was fun! 🙂

  6. Great post – very informative. I’ve read so many awesome books lately and they all have pulled me in for different reasons.

  7. Great idea as always Pat, loved seeing this. It reminds why that as authors we should write what we feel since there is no one right (or in this case similiar answer) you should go with your gut.
    Write what you love, and pray for divine intervention. haha! 🙂

  8. Great post Pat. I loved reading everyone’s answers!

  9. Great idea, and it was so interesting seeing everyone’s take on what makes a great novel!

  10. What a great idea. Thanks for sharing, it’s really neat to see everyone’s opinion here. Good reference material 🙂

  11. Fascinating replies.

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