Wednesday, September 15, 2010

More About Special

*Sighs in frustration*

I had a whole post written about how I’m still thinking about what makes a book special, and my thoughts on authors like Suzanne Collins and Stephenie Meyer and J.K. Rowling. About how they didn’t set out to make their books special, but rather they more likely set out to write a good story that was fresh and authentic. And how those stories became public phenomenons.

But then my computer battery died—with no prior warning—and for some stupid reason, I couldn’t recover that document.

*grabs hair and suppresses a scream*

So. Anyway. About special again. I’m still thinking. Still pondering the thing that makes a book pop for me. And I’ve decided that a story has to be authentic enough to grab me by the heart and pull me along with the protagonist, feeling what he or she feels and living in his or her shoes. But also, it has to be fresh enough that I don’t feel like I’ve read this story a hundred times over.

You know, special like that.

But in order for a book to be both fresh and authentic, I think the writer can’t necessarily set out to write it that way. It can’t be premeditated, but rather should be written with feeling and emotion that comes so naturally that it shows through in the story and with the characters. (When I say premeditated, I’m not talking about pre-planned as in outlining. I’m talking about forcing a character to feel something they shouldn’t, or wouldn’t, or don’t, just for the sake of the story.)

Kind of like life, right? Right. What do you think? Can you tell the difference between fresh and stale and authentic and contrived? (Not asking for examples here, just maybe thoughts.) Do you think this is part of what makes a book special to you?


Janet Johnson said...

I think authenticity is a big part of it. If it doesn't feel real (in some sense), I struggle to get into it.

But yes, I don't think you can just decide to write the next bestseller. So many unknowns go into that.

Carolyn V. said...

I do think it's easy to see. I believe that's why some books are so big while others aren't.

Angie said...

Definitely. Even though I probably couldn't define it, I can tell fresh and authentic from stale and contrived in the submissions that I read. I'll talk a bit about those special stories that get accepted by me. I have to connect to the characters. I have to care about what is happening to them. I have to feel some real, genuine emotion from them. (I'm sure there's more that goes into it for me, but it's hard to put into words.)

ali said...

Oh, absolutely. You can tell insincerity when you meet it, hear it, read it, speak it, think it. If YOU can, your readers can too. It's foolish of us to ever think otherwise. That's why, I think, those writers who set out to write the next bestseller often don't even sell it. Because that story will lack heart, and everyone will be able to see it.

Sara B. Larson said...

That is very true - and all the other commens are great too. You can tell the difference between a story that was written because the author truly loved the story, and one that was forced out in an effort to be a "best-seller."

Kristi said...

So very true! I think an author has to really love their own story enough to really make you feel and understand it, in a way that makes it stand out. A lot of heart and honesty poured into it...authenticity is a perfect word!