What Makes a Good Book

I’ve been trying to add a new page with writing tips but the page wasn’t linking so well. Crazy WordPress! Instead, I’ll post writing tips in the blog every week. This one I found scribbled in my own handwriting on a piece of note paper, so most likely it’s paraphrased in my own words too. Maybe. I gleaned the information from “What Makes a Good Book” by Kate O’Sullivan, an article in Horn Book, Sept/Oct 2006, p. 525.

1. An authentic voice

2. Natural sounding dialogue

3. Deftly realized time and place

4. Characters who make things happen, rather than plots that force them to act

5. Truths that arise organically from characters’ actions and development rather than contrived circumstances that coerce change

6. Convincing, accurate point of view

7. Emotional honesty

“A good read most often lies at the intersection where place, personality, and events meet. . . . I’m looking for personality to emerge and a narrative that vibrates with life.”



Filed under Writing Tip

5 responses to “What Makes a Good Book

  1. Wonderful advice! Reminds me of one of my favorite writing quotes,

    “Writing well means never having to say, ‘I guess you had to be there.'”

    -Jef Mallett, Frazz

    • kimreidbooks

      So true! I can always tell I need to improve my writing when I respond to criticism, “No, that’s not what I mean. What I was thinking was this . . . Get it?” Nope, they don’t.

  2. What great advice! My favorite that I need to remember as I do edits is:

    4. Characters who make things happen, rather than plots that force them to act

    I like to think of it in terms of pulling and pushing with the plot. A bit of both is good a balance. 🙂

    • kimreidbooks

      I don’t remember for sure since I didn’t take great notes on this article, but I’ve been thinking about how number 4 is possible when so much of creating suspense is to knock the legs out from under the table on your character one at a time and see what they do (another quote I will post at a future date) :). I think the person who wrote this article said something to the effect of that when she finds a book especiallly emotionally compelling, when she examines it closer, it’s because the character is much more than a victim to circumstances. I agree you need some pushing and pulling in a plot, though. There have to be outward circumstances happening in addition to a character who makes things happen or there’s nothing for your character to work against.

  3. Nice site. You might want to look at my Blog on Children’s writing and Illustrating. I post daily on editors, agents, where to submit, “How to” writing articles and I am always looking for articlews to share with people.

    BTW, Did you know that Kate Sullivan had a baby girl this year?


    Hope you stop by.