A discussion of the elements of a good book review triggered a conversation among my friends about what makes a good book.
What is a good story? As W. Somerset Maugham said, “There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, nobody knows what they are.”
Science fiction and fantasy—even romance, action and mystery—asks, “what if …?” To succeed, the author then weaves a tale which connects with the reader. Regardless of genre or style, the best stories touch who we are and what we experience. They tell us we’re not alone. Someone else has faced the same challenges, fought the same battles, felt the same heart ache.
To achieve this level of intimacy, I believe the story must achieve several things. It must be populated by people we recognize, if not identify with. It must take place in a consistent, recognizable setting—even if that setting is inconsistent and alien to the protagonist. (World building is important.) The action must be plausible. The outcome must be appropriate to the story, even if it’s a negative outcome.
Good stories resonate with readers. The best stories touch your soul and change you.
I’m still looking. Are you?