Friday, May 8, 2009

Friday Discussion: What Makes You Read On?

Personally, when I read a book, not only do I gauge my enjoyment, I study it to determine what's causing this enjoyment or lack thereof. But I'm interested to know your thoughts on the matter. What, to you, makes a great book? Do you need strong and unique characters, a heart pounding pace, twists and turns, a high concept, subtle conflict among the characters? Or is it the smaller things that make a great book, such as smooth prose, or the right amount of description? The list could go on forever. Also, what makes a popular book? What makes one book, say Harry Potter, so much more popular than the other books in the same genre? I'd love to hear your thoughts.
(Image by Bunnyrel)


ElizabethOfMena said...

For me, what makes a good book good, is how exciting it is. Does it keep me on my toes, and wanting to never put it down? It has to allow me to feel one with the characters, as if I know them personally. I have to feel this with every character, not just the main person, but all the way down to the janitor sweeping the halls. I'm somewhat of a picky reader. If a book isn't "good" and easy to read, it will take me months (literally, I'm not even kidding!) to get through it. But it's not just battles and such that makes it exciting, I've read romance books that were pretty slow, but I read them really well. And REALLY enjoyed it! But it's the suspense, the curiosity of what's around the bend that makes it exciting. The feeling of, "oh man! She/He shouldn't have said/done that! How are they going to get out of it this time?". Pretty much, that's what makes a good book good for me. Assr lei∂r ykkarr or∂. ~ElizabethOfMena~

DragonFan said...

Personally, I love great characters and spirtual depth. Never Read Harry P so I don't know why it's so popular.


J.R. Parker said...

DragonFan: I was just using Harry Potter as an example of one book (or series) that is wildly more popular than books similar to it. What do you think makes a character great?

Caleb said...

The concept that makes a character great is the prospect that we can see ourselves inside them. What makes great authors is the fact that some people are so profoundly gifted with the human language that the can use symbols that people read to make the reader bring to memory something they've experienced. For example, if somehow you could put into words the way I feel when i see someone i love after not seeing them for six months inside one of your character's thoughts then automatically i feel closer to that character because i see myself inside of them. I share something with that character; they hold a piece of me inside of them.

Have you readers-don't let them have you.

J.R. Parker said...


That's some good insight. I think you're right on several levels.

JT Norlander said...

I think a great book needs to have a believable story. Get into fantasy, you need to make your action believable inside that realm. Being unrealistic really destroys a book for me.
That, and I need characters. I need to have a solid character to follow and begin to get to know throughout a book. Without a anchoring character(s) I can't get through a book.
There's so much more I could get into, but I won't, just so that I'm not taking up a ton of space. :)


ps. I actually really like the Harry Potter books as entertainment with some good moral lessons. The characters and story are absolutely phenomenal. JK Rowling is a master writer, not like Tolkien, but great in her own right.

Leah said...

I think what draws me into a book is how much I can relate to it like Caleb said, but I also like a book that has good descriptions, I want to see every detail in my imagination. I like a good book with humor such as Carry on Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse or A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket.
But that's only a couple things that I want in a good book.

I don't know if that helps or even answers your question at all! :)

Darian Wilmot Stowell said...

To make a book enjoyable for me, it has to have a good plot line, be fast paced, and be descriptive, and overall good writing. Please check out my blog at

Elrania Peredhil said...

I've awarded you!

Camden said...

That's a really hard question...

I think one thing that make a book great is characters you can relate to. A hero in the story, but someone that has problems just like everybody else. Someone that, while they're a hero in their own right, you can easily relate to.

That's just one of the key points. I think another great thing I like is diverse characters. For example, a serious, a sarcastic, and a character with a leadership personallity usually balance each other pretty well.

I could list more, but those were two that came right to mind.


Caitlin said...

What makes a story the richest for me is not just the characters themselves, but the dynamic relationships that go on between characters. Books like Harry Potter have a lot of main characters. What sort of feelings do they have for each other? Are there dark undercurrents that no one else can see? Do they stick together because of true loyalty or just nessecity?

Also, what past experiences lead one character to treat another in the way he/she does? For example, in a series I'm fond of, a main character lost her mother at an early age; now her first instinct is to "mother" everyone she meets to "make up" for it.

All this groundwork leads to much more realistic actions between characters, which is the first step to building drama, emotion, tension or humour, depending on which direction you want to take your story.

Galadriel said...

I wasn't really sure how to define the heart of good books until I read these rules of writing in Showdown by Ted Dekker:
1. Write to discover.
2. There is no greater discovery then love.
3. All love comes from the Creator.
4. Write what you will.

Those four rules seem to define a good book. As for popularity, popular books don't demand anything of the reader. While there are exceptions--i.e, Lord of the Rings--most popular books don't have a deeper purpose or in-depth characters.

P.S. I checked out your blog because you were listed as a follower of mine. How'd you find mine?

Adam said...

Personaly I think the novel is strictly alive and beautiful by the heart of the writer. Anyone in this world can write a book, but does their heart know how? They have to be willing to do so, and to have enough faith (in God: who gave you the talent) to get your mind and heart to your fingers to either write or type it out.

J.R. Parker said...

Thanks for the responses everyone. I don't know about you guys, but I feel like I'm better able to write a good book now. Some very thoughtful points here, ones I hadn't thought about.

Galadriel: I found your blog through your comment on Wayne Batson's

Kat Heckenbach said...

I love intricate plots--not necessarily fast-paced, but complex. I love mysteries that go beyond the standard "who-dun-it." This is why I personally love Harry Potter. The way JK Rowling ties so many seemingly unrelated details together throughout the course of SEVEN books blows my mind. The biggest compliment I've gotten is having my plotting skills compared to hers :).

I also think a major key to a phenomenal book is depth of character and character growth. The characters need to be truly affected by their circumstances. I love experiencing those changes along with them.

Also, as a fantasy fan, I love discovering new worlds!

J.R. Parker said...

Kat: Intricate plots are definitely the best kind! I agree that JK Rowling is probably the best plotter I've ever read. "Holes" by Lois Sachar is another one with a great plot. I tried to put such a plot in my book as well.

Elizabeth said...

Readers want to read about someone they identify with on some level. The main character needs a flaw or horrific past or sensitive side that will make the reader wnat to know what happens to him/her.
As far as making the book a page-turner, there are different formulas that you can follow that draw the reader in.
If you really want to do some research on that, there are planty of writing books available where the authors discuss this in depth. I have some of those titles if you want them.