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JudgeACoverThere is a lot of writing advice out there for authors, to help with anything from pacing to vocabulary.  I recently came across a post by Ashley LaMar titled 7 Things your Readers Want to See in your Books, which I appreciated for including some of the things I find particularly important to a good book.

Here is a brief summary of her points, along with my comments:

  • A thrilling opening paragraph.  A lot of advice stresses the importance of the first sentence, but this can be misleading.  It is the whole paragraph rather than the first sentence that will tell you whether a book will be good or not.
  • Don’t tell the reader everything.  Let a little mystery persist, at least at the beginning.  Present facts, but don’t explain from the start how things ended up that way.  That way, the reader will get hooked to the story.
  • Well-developed, multi-dimensional characters.  Characters who are one-dimensional are boring, plain and simple; especially good ones.  It is amazing how a little darkness in the hero or a saving grace in the antihero can make all the difference.
  • Accuracy.  At the beginning of Peter Sellers’ great movie The Party, a 19th century British soldier glancing at his watch.  The director immediately asks him if watches were available back then.  It is important to make the book believable by watching for plot devices that contradict its internal logic.  This is especially important when writing historical fiction, of course, but even when writing fantasy or science fiction, there will be things that simply can’t be done.
  • A great cover: the adage that we ‘shouldn’t judge a book but their cover’ is nonsensical.  We all do it, so, let’s admit to it and get on with our business.  Design the best cover you can afford, and change it if you must.
  • Predictability: it’s good to make the reader go ‘oh my God, I didn’t expect that’ and have them read the next 36 chapters to find out what happens.  But we all need some sense of predictability.  Characters can be surprising, but have some semblance of expectedness and completeness to them.
  • An ending that fits the novel: we might have thought of an ending that will suit the novel.  Sometimes, we know how we want the story to end, even before sitting and  writing it.  But then, the book progresses in a new way: we add characters, we change the plot, we think of interesting situations and the ending just doesn’t fit.  Abandon it!    Follow the story and find an ending that is befitting what you have been writing.  As for the previous ending, simply write another book that clicks with that particular ending!

Click to read the original post by Ashley LaMar titled 7 Things your Readers Want to See in your Books!