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New and Interesting Worlds

Much of what I’m learning of writing has come from reading.  I’m sure this is true with most writers, but I have been fortunate enough to come across some really unique books in the past few months, so I am eager to share what I have learned.

The most recent book I read had a few things that drove me a crazy, but I kept reading because I’d never read a fantasy story with a world like the one created in this story.  There were creatures I’d never heard of, and a way of separating the mortal world with the world of magic that I’d never imagined.  I loved exploring this amazing world with the main character, even as I tried to overlook some of the frustrating things about this writer’s style.

Happily, I finished this novel and looked for another novel by this author.  I discovered several more books in this series and immediately started on another one.

A problem, however, very quickly occurred.  I realized, after learning all about this incredible world, there was not much to keep my interest.  Things like stereotypical characters, predictable plots, and tedious, somewhat pointless sections, suddenly became a much bigger problem.  I plan to continue reading this book as long as I can, and hope that I find reasons to keep reading, but I find it surprising how important exploring this new world was to my overall enjoyment of this book.

This fact really made me curious about what a winning novel really needs.  Yes, it would be amazing if it had everything, but is being really good in one way enough?  Can it “carry” an entire novel?

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1 Comment

  1. It’s a really good question to ask, and I think that the answers it that books can work with only one major element in place. In fact, I’d say most books (and films/television shows for that matter) have one strong element (plot, character, world building) and the rest is all pretty standard. It’s a mark of a great book that it takes compelling characters, an interesting world, and engaging plot and mixes them all together seamlessly.

    Take Robin Hobb, for example. Her prose is beautiful and her plots intriguing. But I find all of her characters tend to fall into the same category of ‘self pitying whingers’. Or the film Avatar, which had the most basic of plots (and in 7 years of writing, James Cameron couldn’t think of a better name for an unobtainable mineral than Unobtainium?), but was visually stunning. And on television, Bone’s murder ‘mysteries’ are so thin you can accurately guess the murderer after five minutes, but it’s the characters and their interactions that keep you watching.

    Whether having one strong element is ‘enough’ is debatable. I’d say that, yes, a book can be good or even great with one strong element, but as writers I don’t think we should ever aim to make only one great element and not bother with the rest.


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