What makes a novel unputdownable and unforgettable?
For me it is when the author has managed to make me care, sometimes desperately and irrationally, about the characters and the stories they have to tell. I am concerned about them and emotionally invested in their ability to move forward despite the odds.
More than that, the best stories are the ones where I think – ‘That could happen to me’ – even if the story is set in space, in another dimension, in the future or the past, I am still able to put myself into the story.
Six Simple Requirements
If you want to write a book like this, you need to consider the following:
- Is my story plausible?
- Does it have emotional appeal?
- Can readers empathise with my characters?
- Have I given my characters compelling story goals?
- Do I have enough uncontrived conflict to write a full-length novel?
- Given that there are no original stories, am I able to write with my authentic voice to give my story a fresh twist?
When I read a book that leaves me reeling, I realise more often than not that it is simply saying something familiar in an unfamiliar way. It is also about something that matters. It reaffirms, or makes me aware of, things I’ve known but have never been able to put into words. And yes, it is also entertaining.
To entertain, a novel should be technically sound. The best idea written by a talented author disappoints me if it is badly executed. I am so upset that I will not read another book by that author. To become a technically sound writer, you need to look after the basics.
Three Tough Questions
To do this, you need to answer three questions:
- Have you learnt the basics of grammar and punctuation? Never underestimate this. Well-constructed sentences are impossible to write without this. If your sentences don’t work, you won’t be able to write paragraphs that become chapters and full-length novels.
- Have you bothered to learn the rules of fiction? It is arrogant and unprofessional to believe that you can write without learning how to do it. Every decent writer has spent years perfecting his or her craft. A beautiful idea is quickly derailed when there is no technique to keep it on track.
- Have you done the time? There is no quick fix in writing fiction. You have to work hard to finish writing a novel, then rewriting and editing it. You need to realise that your first novel is unlikely to be published and you should set yourself the goal of writing two or three more before you submit a book to a publisher, or decide to self-publish.
If you make me care and if you write technically sound books, you will write unforgettable novels, and I will become an avid reader of your books.
If you enjoyed this post, read:
- Wherever I Lay My Hat – How Setting Affects Your Characters
- Five Ways To Use Setting To Advance A Plot
- How To Write A Beginning And An Ending That Readers Will Never Forget
© Amanda Patterson