The other day I received an email from Paul Reeves, who hosts “Dr. Paul’s Family Talk on Impact Radio. In addition to news, music and a variety of topics, Paul usually has an interview with an author to discuss their latest book or story. I’ve been fortunate to have been a guest on his show a couple of times.
So the message was “What makes a good book?” Paul was asking a few authors to share their insights, in a sentence or a couple of paragraphs. A sentence?
Here was my response.
A good book must have relatable characters, people the reader can easily identify with. That can include their physical description, their background (race and ethnicity) and their family as well. There must be at least one major conflict, although several others can lead to great subplots and give the reader insight as to how your main character deals with them. There should be some descriptive passages, that can help convey 'when' the story takes place and the location.
Next is dialogue. I want to hear the characters’ talk, whether it's exchanging pertinent information or friendly verbal jabs. Without it, I'm reminded of the old line "A nod is as good as a wink to a blind horse." And your dialogue should give the reader another glimpse inside your character's behavior. Rarely do people in the present speak in full sentences.
To help with the tension of the story (which ties in with the conflicts) you need humor. Nobody gets through a day without someone cracking a joke or making a derogatory comment to lighten the mood.
The last component should be resolution. It may not be the end of the story, but if you can wrap up the various conflicts to bring at least some type of closure, the reader will be satisfied. Of course, you may want to leave a couple of things open-ended, so you have the foundation for a sequel.
Now that was a quick response with a short deadline. Paul wanted to include those thoughts in the next day’s show. There were about a half dozen authors who responded with their ideas. Between us, we covered the basics: characters, settings, conflicts, dialogue, resolution, genre, description.
But is there any perfect all-encompassing answer? The question is different for everyone. What makes a good book for you?
In just a few short weeks, “Your Turn to Die” will be released. It’s now available for pre-order at Wild Rose Press, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and all of your favorite sources. Here’s an excerpt. In this scene, Jefferson Chene is interviewing Valerie Mann, an associate of the victim who is being less than cooperative.
“Why did you lie to me?”
She shifted her head just enough to look me in the eye. “I don’t like you.”
“It’s not a popularity contest. I’m trying to figure out who killed your boss.”
“You’re abrasive.” I shrugged. “If I have to be.”
“Your mother must be so proud.” Her voice was dripping with sarcasm.
“I wouldn’t know. I never met her.”
Valerie opened her mouth to say something, but no words came out. Her cheeks and throat flushed scarlet. She swallowed once and turned her attention to the computer. I watched as she scrolled through a list of files and brought up a folder labeled ‘contacts’.
“So there must be some other reason you lied, other than not liking me.”
“I just don’t see how any of this could help you find his killer.”
I pointed at the computer monitor. Slowly she ran through the list of names. Valerie stopped occasionally to jot down the details for several people listed as attorneys. It was tempting to see if there were any recent emails between them and Morrissey. I was about to ask but figured Yekovich and Pinky would be able to tell me. We finished with the list. Valerie switched off the computer.
“Want to tell me about the lie?” She let out a ragged breath.
“You’re impossible.” I rested a hip on the desk. She remained in the big chair. Self-consciously she crossed her legs, then tugged the hem of her skirt down toward her knee. It didn’t cover much.
“I’m in no hurry.”
“I thought you were trying to catch a killer.”
“I am. But my boss gets pissed if I do a sloppy job and miss something.”
Valerie folded her hands in her lap. “I have nothing more to say. Unless you have questions related to Mr. Morrissey’s business dealings, I’m going to ask you to leave. We have a number of things to finish up before tomorrow’s services.”
I decided not to push it. She was obviously holding something back. Whether it was pertinent to the case was anyone’s guess. Tucking the papers into my pocket, I pushed away from the desk. Valerie stayed in the chair.
“I’ll see you around, Ms. Mann.” It obviously wasn’t the response she was hoping for.
This week’s musical selection is from The Fine Young Cannibals. Here’s “She Drives Me Crazy”.