As I have spent more and more time writing, I began to wonder just what it was that made a good book. One of my very favourite books is A Rebel in Time by Harry Harrison. It deals with a black man going back in time in search of a criminal to the time of the Civil War. It’s well written, and a great adventure. I was lucky enough to be given a copy of this in hardback, and even better, it is a signed copy. For me I got into the works of Harry Harrison from reading 2000.A.D comics, when they began to offer a strip of The Stainless Steel Rat. Later on I looked for Harrison’s books, and found Bill The Galactic Hero, which I thought was so silly and funny I read it three times. I read all of the books in the series, and it was obviously at this time I began to realize there were certain writers I would follow, because they wrote things I enjoyed and liked.
I wondered what it was that I enjoyed most about not only his books, but those of others I read. For me to put it simply, there are two main aspects that matter. the first is it has to be a truly great story. It doesn’t have to be unique or particularly different or new, because look at Harry Potter, which is basically The Sorcerer’s Apprentice , although obviously much more to it. Which brings us to the second important element, which is being able to tell a story.
Telling a story isn’t simple, because it needs to take the reader along, and offer elements which excite, interest, educate or enlighten, or all of those things and more. The plot has to do something, the characters have to have some worth. You can create a plot, and work on it, and create graphs and charts and lists of characters and events, but then you have to string it all together, in a way which the reader falls in love with, and becomes a part of.
When a book of fiction does this, it really drives our imagination, and leads us to places we might never have imagined ourselves going.
So for me a book needs to have an interesting story, and the writer needs to tell that story well. Then I can get into it, love it, and want to read it again.
I think doing that well enough that the reader will love it, and you as a writer is the hardest part, because we’re all different, and there’s no telling what might excite on reader, but annoy another.
I guess that’s all part of the fun of being a writer though.
Now, you’ll have to excuse me, I have a book to read…