Sunday, November 20, 2011

What Makes A Book GREAT?

Here are some GREATS which, when combined, can make a book GREAT:

1. A GREAT cover - It should be not only eye catching and professional, but also consistent with the image expected for that genre.

2. GREAT back cover copy - Tell the reader about your book in a concise, engaging way, leaving hints and unanswered questions to engender curiosity.

3. A GREAT hook - The first few sentences in a book are terribly important. Since attention spans are so  short these days, get right into the action immediately. As you go along, you can sprinkle in bits and pieces of how your character got into the situation.

4. A GREAT title - Again, as in the cover, the title should be consistent with the image of the genre, but also something that stands out and intrigues the reader.

5. GREAT grammar, spelling, punctuation - Readers get turned off by grammatical errors. Don't rely completely on your word processor to tell you if you've made mistakes. I've found many grammatical errors in spell check, and also found some instances where spell check was correct. Get an editor or someone in the know to go over your manuscript. Authors tend to see what they want to see and overlook the obvious.

6. A GREAT story line - This is subjective, since readers have various tastes. However, there are certain guidelines an author can follow to help the cause;  such as, not making your character too stupid to live, not making the hero or heroine do unheroic things, not giving away solutions along the way, or even the ending, not introducing characters out of the blue just to resolve an issue, and not relying on coincidence. Other than that, I can't say what kind of story anyone should write. That has to come from an author's heart. Remember, though, if you want to follow a current trend, it would help if you're a fast writer, since trends change.

7. GREAT characters - An author needs to get the readers into the characters' heads, hinting through internal dialogue or body language how the characters feel, so the readers can bond with them. It helps to give the heroes and heroines not only some likeable characteristics, but also a few foibles, because no one's perfect. Also, offer a reason or two why or how the villain became twisted. Again, no one's all bad or all good.

8. GREAT dialogue - Dialogue makes a book sparkle. Long, rambling narratives can turn off a reader. Long, rambling dialogue can also. Have the characters say what they need to say to get the plot moving along, yet have them say it in their own way. A teenager should not talk like a Baby Boomer.

9. GREAT description - Readers like to use their imagination, but it doesn't hurt to help them along some. Intersperse various descriptions of physical description, body language, clothes, places, time, weather elements, so the reader doesn't founder along. Imagination can only go so far.

I hope these GREATS will help make your book GREAT!

Can you think of any I've missed? Or, can you think of a book where you were impressed by any of the GREATS I've mentioned?

Morgan Mandel

Morgan Mandel is a past president of Chicago-North RWA,past library liaison for Midwest MWA, belongs to EPIC, and Sisters in Crime.
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Coming soon is her thriller, Forever Young:Blessing or Curse. You can find her romantic suspense,Killer Career,and romantic comedy, Girl of My Dreams, on Kindle and Smashwords for 99 cents each.Two Wrongs will soon follow.


Carolyn J. Rose said...

How about great core emotion connection point for readers beneath the plotline? Is there something they can relate to that resonates with their lives? The desire for justice? The longing for love and respect and belonging? The need to be part of a family of some kind?

Morgan Mandel said...

Good addition, Carolyn. It helps to get the reader emotionally involved.

Morgan Mandel

Randy Rawls said...

Blogger simply doesn not like me. I've reached that conclusion because of the many times She has rejected me. I may not be handsome, but I'm persistent, so here we go again.
I love your post Morgan. And it is so timely. I'm in the process of loading my Kindle for a week on the road. Now I know what criteria to look for.
Happy Thanksgiving to everyone.

Jean Henry Mead said...

Good tips, Morgan, but don't have your characters always speaking in grammatically correct sentences because people usually don't talk that way (with the exception of the android, Data, in "Stat Trek").

I agree with Carolyn that elicting emotion is a must, and don't forget "Conflict." Each scene should be like a boxing match with a knockout punch at the end.

Margaret Tanner said...

Hi Morgan,
Great tips.I think good conflict adds emotion to a story.



jenny milchman said...

In the throes of editing as I am, I'd have to add a great editor to your very inclusive list!

Anne K. Albert said...

All of the above, plus great readers. ;-)

Mike Dennis said...

Good post, Morgan. I would add great tension.

Maureen Lang said...

Wonderful post, Morgan! A nice reminder of such important elements. And I agree with Mike about tension/conflict. It's why I turn the pages!