12 August 2011

Good reading or Gag-inducing?

I've been thinking about what makes a piece of writing "good" lately. Maybe it's because I've been working on the coffee house book, and maybe it's because I've been working on a reading list for the fall. (I've been terrible about reading lately, but my schedule is a lot better now!) My reading time has been pretty limited lately, so I don't want to spend time on something I don't like.

But fiction is so subjective that to declare something "good" is hard to do. And if you do decide something is good fiction, that doesn't mean others will agree with you. That said, I think there are qualities a piece of writing can have (within subjectivity) that make it "good."

Engaging. A story has to draw you in. If you read a story and are very aware you're reading a story (unless that aspect is intentional, of course), it's hard to enjoy it.

Suspension of disbelief. Whether the story is realism, speculative fiction, or bizarro literature, good fiction is written in a way that lets you believe that what's happening in the story, however unlikely (or impossible), could actually happen.

Rewards rereading. I've read lots of stories that I've enjoyed, but when I read them again, problems are exposed. On the other hand, I've read stories that I could read every year and take something new from it every time. Good stories can be read more than once.

Emotional. Good fiction evokes emotion, positive and negative. Authors who write good stories are the ones who get you to love the characters they want you to love and hate the characters they want you to hate. Whether you like what's going on in the story or not, you react to it.

What else makes a good story?

What makes a bad story?


  1. I think one thing that makes a bad story is if the dialogue isn't very good or believable. I remember reading one novel that had a really good plot. But the characters kept spouting off these long monologues that made me think, "No one talks like that in real life." Shakespeare could get away with stuff like that, but I like reading stories where reading the characters' conversations is like listening to people talk at my neighborhood cafe.

  2. I know exactly what you mean. If the dialogue is stilted or awkward, it takes you out of the story.


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