What, in your opinion, are the essential qualities of a good story?

The most important quality of a good story is the ability to take readers somewhere else and make them glad they went. It’s also essential to make the writing easy to read, which means the writing must be grammatically correct. Nothing takes an experienced reader out of a story faster than having to decipher convoluted sentences with improper punctuation. Ideally, a story should leave readers a bit better off than they were before, either because of what they learned about the world and themselves, or because of the respite from their everyday lives.

Here are some responses from others authors about the essential qualities of a good story. The comments are taken from interviews posted at Pat Bertram Introduces . . .

From an interview with J J Dare, Author of False Positive and False World

The hook is the essential part of a story; with a good hook, the reader won’t want to put a book down. I try to draw the reader in immediately with a one-two punch.

From an interview with Mickey Hoffman, author of School of Lies

I want the main characters to have a “quest.” The quest can be a real journey or one in their heads and if there’s mystery involved all the better.

From an interview with Michael Murphy, author of Scorpion Bay

In my opinion a good story has conflict throughout and characters the reader will care about. I don’t believe the story, what happens to the characters is nearly as important has how these events impact the character’s lives, how they’ve evolved and grown, or in some instances, how they’ve stuck to their principles and are not changed by events in the story. An example of this type of story would be the movie High Noon.

From an interview with John Grover, Author of “Feminine Wiles”

A good story is about style, the style it is written in makes it unique and second is to make the reader care about your characters. Without empathy for your characters readers won’t care what happens to them. Once they care, you can really rev things up. I think it is all in the way you tell the story and how the characters come to life. Write about what you know, add in touches from your life and real people and it will come to life.

So, what, in your opinion, are the essential qualities of a good story?

(If you’d like me to interview you, please check out my author questionnaire http://patbertram.wordpress.com/author-questionnaire/ and follow the instruction.)

My Topsy-Turvy Writing Life

NaNoWriMo is good practice for me, this writing without stopping to think.

I’ve always been a slow writer, but I can also see that the way I wrote and the reason I wrote created the slowness. I used to write at night when all was quiet, then the next morning I would read the work to my mate. The piece had to be cohesive, well written, and most of all entertaining because that is why I wrote — to entertain us. That way of writing taught me to pull someone immediately into a scene, to make characters come alive in a few words, to add a hook or reward on almost every page.

I had my reward in his smile. Whenever I saw his lips curve in a secret little smile, I knew I’d hit the scene perfectly.

He and his smile are gone from my life. I’ve had to find a different way of writing and a different reason. For now, meeting the challenge of NaNoWriMo is reason enough. The very nature of the challenge is helping me find a new way to write. Instead of searching for the perfect word, I write any word that comes to mind, trusting that during the rewrites I will find the right one. If no word comes to mind, I leave a blank space and continue with my train of thought.

I also have no need to write a coherent story from beginning to end for there is no one to follow along as I write. I jot down whatever scene is foremost in my mind. I also write in the morning since it’s quietest here then. Also, by writing in the morning, I can come at the task in an oblique way before excuses begin to get in the way.

Some of what I’ve written will need little revision. Other bits read more like notes for a novel than a fleshed out scene and will need to be completely revised. Other parts are redundant and will need to be junked. But I am keeping up with my word count (probably because I am leaving out the hard bits, like descriptions and sensory details), and that is an important achievement.

I’m getting into the rhythm of this topsy-turvy life. From being one of a couple to being alone. From living near the mountains to living near the desert. From writing at night to writing in the morning. From writing beginning to end to writing whatever scene catches my attention.

I’m still writing the same type of book, though — a non-literary literary novel. The way I understand it, a literary novel is a story that addresses the major themes of life, and the way it is written — the choice of words, the sentence structure, the imagery — is more important than what is written. I fail in the second part — I strive for a simple, easy to read style that doesn’t detract from the story — but I do address major themes, especially in this work. Life. Death. Love. Grief. Relationships. The meaning of life. All while telling a good story. At least, that’s the plan.

I’m hoping someday you’ll be able to tell me if I succeeded.

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