Friday, June 7, 2013

Breaking Down the Great Book

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You have five seconds. Ready? Set? GO!

Race to the comments and leave one comment with the title of your favorite book. (from those that do as I say, I'll draw one name to win one of my favorite books. ;-)

Are you back?

I'll wait. I'm not going anyway. You should though... down to the comments.

Did you leave the title of your favorite book? Good. Now stop and think for a minute, what made this book so memorable for you? What made you love it so much that you'd ignore your job, spouse, kids, siblings, responsibilities, etc and read all day until that book was finished?

Let's do a quick break down:

Characters: I don't know any successful books that don't have characters of some sort. ;-) But the characters we root for and want to see succeed are the ones who have a relatable goal. We might not necessarily want to go run a software company, but can we identify with their goals for why they want to run that company? Giving a strong why behind the actions of your characters will strengthen them on the page and within your readers' hearts.

Dialogue: Rachel Hauck has a fabulous piece of advice: tell the story within the quotes. If you can say it in dialogue instead of prose, then do it. Your point will become more powerful, the reader is able to read more quickly which is appealing in this text-messaging world... plus dialogue can be fun to write! Give it sass, snap and the last thing you would ever say and you'll come up with something great. Long paragraphs clumped together of description stop the reader like a truck in a Louisiana water-bogged field. Keep those few and far between and important to the story and surround everything with dialogue and you've got a winner.

Themes: This concept is a little bit more abstract, but the theme makes a difference to the reader. They might not immediately identify with this concept, but when you close that book and realize you are a changed reader from when you started, you know the author did their job right. I don't know about you, but I don't start my book out with a theme. That tends to grow and change through edits. But think about that while you edit and draw this out in certain character actions and settings, similes, etc.

Writing Quality: Voice makes a huge difference. You'll continue to hone this and make it stronger by writing, writing, writing. You'll also find out what makes you, you by reading. When you start to pick apart how the author says something and how you'd say it differently, you know you're figuring out what makes your voice work. Now go put it into practice!

Setting: A good setting can do wonders to make a book memorable. Sometimes that just includes having quirky secondary characters. They contribute to your setting too. Is your setting larger than life like in Texas? Or is it small town America like the mountains of Tennessee? Is it warm and welcoming like the small towns of the Iowa interstates or is it harsh and closed off like a ranching community set in its ways?

Overall Story: 3D characters. Memorable secondary characters. Setting that sparks. Dialogue that zings. Writing that keeps strong with vibrant descriptions, action verbs and sensory details. The reader wants to enter the story world and not leave anytime soon. Anything that disrupts that story world entrance is a mark against the book. And we don't want marks against our books. ;-)

Final Rating: Story is subjective. Sure. You can love it and your neighbor can hate it. But if you rate this book five stars and you love it that much, nothing is going to keep your mouth shut for anything, even chocolate. A good book is worth spreading without even pausing to think on which one would be your top favorite.

Your thoughts: We've all got a favorite book. If I were to give you five seconds or less to answer this question, you could tell me without even hesitating (see my point has already been proven) and it's the first title that pops into your mind that you don't even hesitate to give that proves all of what I've said above. A good story has to have: a star quality about it that keeps drawing you back when a thousand different things are pulling you away. So the next time you say you "love" that book. Or you "couldn't stop reading" it, stop and think about why. It's from this you'll learn the most.

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Casey Herringshaw is a homeschool graduate and has been writing since high school. She lives in rural Eastern Oregon in a town more densely populated with cows than people.

31 comments:

Jill Weatherholt said...

So many...but if I have to name one I've read recently it's Wildflowers from Winter by Katie Ganshert. It was excellent!

Beth K. Vogt said...

This question always stumped me! Really? Pick an all-time-favorite? Then I landed on this answer: The first book I ever read, which then opened the door to all the other books I ever read. Yes, this was probably a "See Dick Run" kind of book ... but oh, the power it unleashed!

Amy Leigh Simpson said...

Great post, Casey dear! My favorite was one of the first books I ever read.. The book that turned me into a reader, energized my faith, and made me want to write words that mattered. A Voice in the Wind by Francine Rivers.

teresa said...

honestly the Bible is my fav book.

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

LOL....Beth....you are hilarious!

AMY!!!! That is my favorite book! I have read that series so many times, and I do NOT loan out those books...EVER!

Casey, great post, girl. You always have such a fresh way of looking at things.

Casey said...

Jill, LOVED Katie's book. LOVED!

Casey said...

Beth, LOL! I don't know as I would pick one of my childhood books as a favorite, but Laura Ingalls Wilder certainly gave me a great love for story!

Casey said...

Amy, aren't the books that usually turn us into readers are the ones that impact our lives the most?

Casey said...

Teresa...Amen!

Casey said...

Sherrinda, are you a book hoarder? Hmm? Seems you and I need to get this taken "care of". ;)

Jeanne Takenaka said...

The Wedding Dress, by Rachel Hauck

I'll be back after I read the rest of your post. :)

Jeanne Takenaka said...

I loved all the elements you shared here, Casey. This was a fun, insightful post. :)

Katie said...

Besides the cliche The Great Gatsby and To Kill a Mockingbird (I studied literature and find these fascinating), the book Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns, has stuck with me since the 9th grade. It was the first book that ever made me cry. :)

Christina Li said...

My all time favorite fiction is The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy. That book has it all: adventure, action, good versus evil, a great hero and heroine, true love.

Heather Day Gilbert said...

My all-time fave as of this moment is FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD by Thomas Hardy. Rich in characters and setting details, it is prone to those longer descriptive paragraphs you mentioned avoiding! But I love taking time to savor classics...to linger over the beautiful phraseology, to see the characters acting/thinking in realistic ways I can relate to, and just to follow them through their unforgettable journeys. Those are the books that stick with me for life.

Charity Schilb said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Charity Schilb said...

I have lots of favorites, but a recent one is The Heiress of Winterwood by Sarah Ladd. I also love Kisses from Katie by Katie Davis and the Circle C Adventures series by Susan Marlow. There are too many good books to choose just one favorite!

Julia M. Reffner said...

Might as well just ask me to choose between children, Case :)

I love Rachel's advice about telling the story within the quotes.

Like Beth I would have to look to a childhood book, maybe Strawberry Girl or The Phantom Tollbooth. Or something Shakespearean. Or Steinbeck. Er, NVM. I can't choose at all.

James Hubbs said...

It took a while to choose, but... The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck.

Casey said...

Jeanne, good pick! My favorite of Rachel's stories is her Dining with Joy. :)

Casey said...

Katie, those books that bring us to tears are often the ones that hold the most impact, aren't they? I have to say, I'm not really a fan of Karen Kingsbury, but she always makes me cry! Now to analyze just why... :)

Casey said...

Christina, I've never read The Scarlet Pimpernel, but I used to work in a resource library for a school and that was one of the books (or adaptions) that would go out.

Casey said...

Heather, the ones that do those long paragraphs really well are the ones to take notes on, for sure! It seems in this world, we can't often get away with this kind of writing, but done well and it really succeeds. Julie Cantrell is one I'm thinking of now.

Casey said...

Charity, I know what you mean! But if you had to pinpoint me down I'd probably first say A Passion Most Pure by Julie Lessman followed closely by My Stubborn Heart by Becky Wade. :)

Casey said...

Julia, I know...I know! It's way harder an assignment then I probably should have given, but it's a great exercise!

Casey said...

James, I read some of John's work while in high school, a talented writer, but an emotionally heavy one for sure!

Heather Marsten said...

The Bible

Casey said...

Amen, Heather!

Anonymous said...

Lights of the Veil by Patty Metzer. UGH, so good. I've read it a blazillion times.

Tiffany Jane said...

Loved all these tips! Umm, my favourite (ahem a favourite) would have to be Mara daughter of the Nile, the author escapes me at the moment

lisacanfield said...

Ranger's Apprentice, Siege of Macindaw. (Plus a million others, but that was the first that came to mind XD)