Why do some books remain memorable, their characters living in our minds as time goes by from the time we first put the book down? We all look for knowledge and wisdom in books. But why do we read novels? I personally think it is because of the memory of our genes. Since the beginning of humanity we related to each other through storytelling. As we develop into more and more complex societies, storytelling remains the way we connect with each other. Our minds, being capable of more complex thoughts not only relate to others, but also to our own desires. I believe fiction novels satisfy the need of daydreaming. Of imagining a world different from our realities that allows us to experience a life story different than the one we are living or shows us how life is for others.
But what makes a story so good that will touch readers looking for different things?
Although we tend to compartmentalize literature into genres, when it comes to fiction, authors in my opinion, shouldn’t depict life as is. Even a photographer waits for the right light, the right person, the right view to represent a certain feeling, mood, basically to represent his own vision. The artist is using reality to portray creativity. As a writer, I believe we should do the same thing. Here are some things to think about when writing a story.
Is the story about something you are passionate about? Without passion from the author, the story goes flat. Passion about what you are communicating is a must. How can you capture the attention of an audience if your own interest isn’t evident? Therefore, the advice of many accomplished authors is writing about what you know.
Create genuine characters. Many think that characters need to be real for people to relate to them and in tune with their role to be believable. This is true to a certain point. In my opinion characters need to be genuine to be relatable. When creating a main character, we tend to day-dream, and unwillingly create our own ideal super human being. If we are writing a super hero story, this can work if we make the super powers genuine to the character. This is why in most super hero stories we see a backstory on how those powers came to be. But that is not enough, the character’s personality needs to be genuine to who this character is. Is he or she funny, kind, cocky, proud? How did they become the way they are? In the Marvel movie Thor for example; Thor is the son of the god king. He is a warrior, charming, handsome and next in line for throne. So, his cocky, self-entitled personality is a match to his background making the character of Thor genuine, and thus likable and relatable. The fact that he is a mythical God and comes from another planet makes his super powers believable.
Tell a real story through your own angle or vision. In order to engage the audience, the story must be relatable to a certain degree to their reality and lives. But does it need to be a picture of real life? My answer is no. We all experience life in a different way, so each of us has a different reality. This is why the author needs to present the story through his own vision, yet in order for the audience to relate with it, the story must have life’s elements that we all go through. Love, hate, war, poverty, wealth, relationships, crime, good, evil, fear, you name it. Any real element through the author’s creativity lens.
Finally, the audience must experience change, be moved, or inspired to reflect. Without affecting the audience in some way, there is no point in reading the story. Many crime thrillers and horror authors use gruesome details to shock the reader, but that is not enough to make a story. Within the gruesomeness they should experience growth. This usually happens through the growth experienced by the main character. There should also be a positive resolution that can inspire the audience and keep the story lingering in their minds. I say positive as a personal preference, as it is my experience (as an avid Sci-fi, thriller, and horror reader); that a positive ending (even when a continuation hook is evident), keeps the story in my mind as I am able to relate to the fact of life and human endurance. Also it reflects the growth of the characters that survived, growth that I can relate to as I survive my own life challenges.
Generally, a good story can mean different things to each of us, yet the items I presented above are pointers on things that might be determining factors for most of us as human beings who love to read and grow through stories.