A quick note from your WITS blog mistress: I'm sorry for so many comments not getting posted as soon as we'd like. All four of us were out of town, and no one had internet access. (Two of us thought we would be able to approve comments, but we were wrong.) Everything is caught up now, though, and if you were waiting for your comment to appear, it's in the comment section below. We'll post the winner of Laurie's giveaway this evening--at the end of the comments section. Thanks for your patience!
We all know a great book needs a great plot and great characters, but those aren’t always enough.
What about the setting?
What about the theme?
What about the voice?
What about the emotion?
What about the action?
What about the dialogue?
Those elements might very well be built into your characters and/or plot, but they can go well beyond that. In fact, when any of those elements is absolutely stellar it can make the difference between simply a “good book” and a keeper that’ll be:
* Read again and again
* Loved just as much every time
* Recommended enthusiastically to fellow readers
* An inspiration for the reader to seek out other books by this same author
So while plot and character are essential factors in building a book that’ll be considered at least a reasonably good read, it takes more than those two factors for a book to be remembered and treasured. It takes three powerful strands, braided together.
What’s the third strand? Genre.
Some readers might protest, “I never read genre fiction; it’s mindless.” Or “it’s trashy.” Or “it’s formulaic.” Or “it’s a waste of time.”
For people who’d rather die than read a novel which didn’t make The New York Times Book Review, it usually comes as a surprise that genre fiction ISN’T mindless, formulaic trash.
Instead, it’s a guarantee of avid readership.
Whether the genre is mystery, romance, fantasy, or even literary fiction, the readers who love it are likely to always:
* Have another book waiting on their bedside table
* Pre-order every series title by their favorite author
* Keep buying book after book after book because this particular kind of reading satisfies a deep need within them
What IS it those readers need?
Well, of course, that depends on the genre. In the classics like mystery, romance, fantasy and mainstream / literary, it’s pretty easy to define what readers expect when they plunk down their money for a new title.
Mystery readers, for instance, want to see the puzzle solved and justice done (unless the bad guy gets away with murder and will need to be thwarted by the good guy in some future book).
Romance readers want to see a couple falling in love and embarking on a happily-ever after (or at least a life which shows these two people were meant for one another).
Fantasy readers want to explore a new but highly plausible realm (in which, win or lose) the challenges are far more enthralling than those of the everyday world.
Literary fiction readers want to feel like they’ve been encouraged to think deep thoughts about the meaning of life (whether or not the characters triumph at the end).
Sure, there are variations according to which TYPE of fantasy orromance or mystery or literary fiction they're reading, but you know that as long as you deliver the fundamentals of what people want from such a story, you're gonna leave ‘em happy and waiting for your next book.
What do YOUR readers want?
You might know that already.
Or you might have never thought about it in those terms.
But the answers matter, because they affect how you handle a multitude of things within your book. The setting (time & place, yes, but also how you describe the society and the everyday details). The relationship/s (if there are any). The moments of nail-biting tension or emotional drama or staggering horror or uplifting inspiration or good vs evil or intriguing discovery or comic relief...to name just a few.
By way of illustration, what do readers love most about a cozy mystery?
* The multiple clues.
* The decision of whether or when to involve the local police.
* The descriptions of the people who might be suspects.
* The red herrings along the way.
* The protagonist's interesting hobby.
Continuing the illustration, what do readers love most about a romance?
* The excitement of a growing relationship.
* The first meeting of these two people we know will fall in love.
* The moment when one of 'em recognizes the other person is someone special.
* The first touch and/or kiss and/or love scene. (Or the fourteenth.)
* The realization that "here's the one I love.”
* The resolution proving that once again, love has led to a happy ending.
* The resolution proving that once again, truth and justice prevailed.
Different romance authors and cozy-mystery authors will place more emphasis on various aspects within their story, but all of 'em are there to keep the readers engaged.
Readers will certainly enjoy seeing surprises as they journey through the book. Yet at the same time they appreciate knowing that once they’ve reached The End, they will have gotten the kind of experience they wanted from this particular title.
Which leads to the trickiest question of writing a such a title:
How do you blend your plot, character and genre?
That’s not always as easy as it might sound. All three elements are crucial to a well-balanced story, but not every book gives equal weight to each strand of the braid.
The braid is where your artistry comes in.
Think about a literal braid. If you picture a fat strand and two skinny ones, it won’t look so good. Same if there’s two fat strands and a skinny one. Balance is crucial.
That’s what we’ll cover in next month’s class onat WriterUniv.com, and someone who posts about their favorite strand will win free registration. (Or a refund PLUS the class if you’ve already registered.)
I’d love to hear from you!
Which do you find easiest or most enjoyable: creating characters, devising a plot, or knowing the expectations for your genre?
One lucky commenter will win Laurie's Braiding Your Book class at WriterUniv.com. Read the comments for the announcement of the winner on September 1st.
Laurie, who’ll notifythe winner privately tonight (if your post offers any clue on how to reach you) so nobody will have to stay in suspense through Labor Day weekend 🙂
Bio: Laurie Schnebly Campbell always loves analyzing what makes a book work, so she's looking forward to starting a four-week class on Braiding Your Book at WriterUniv.com'son September 3. Although she enjoyed braiding her own romances, including one that beat out Nora Roberts for "Best Special Edition of the Year," she enjoys teaching even more. That's why she now has more than 40 novels on her bookshelf from authors inspired by her classes.