What, in your opinion, are the essential qualities of a good story?

The most important quality of a good story is the ability to take readers somewhere else and make them glad they went. It’s also essential to make the writing easy to read, which means the writing must be grammatically correct. Nothing takes an experienced reader out of a story faster than having to decipher convoluted sentences with improper punctuation. Ideally, a story should leave readers a bit better off than they were before, either because of what they learned about the world and themselves, or because of the respite from their everyday lives.

Here are some responses from others authors about the essential qualities of a good story. The comments are taken from interviews posted at Pat Bertram Introduces . . .

From an interview with J J Dare, Author of False Positive and False World

The hook is the essential part of a story; with a good hook, the reader won’t want to put a book down. I try to draw the reader in immediately with a one-two punch.

From an interview with Mickey Hoffman, author of School of Lies

I want the main characters to have a “quest.” The quest can be a real journey or one in their heads and if there’s mystery involved all the better.

From an interview with Michael Murphy, author of Scorpion Bay

In my opinion a good story has conflict throughout and characters the reader will care about. I don’t believe the story, what happens to the characters is nearly as important has how these events impact the character’s lives, how they’ve evolved and grown, or in some instances, how they’ve stuck to their principles and are not changed by events in the story. An example of this type of story would be the movie High Noon.

From an interview with John Grover, Author of “Feminine Wiles”

A good story is about style, the style it is written in makes it unique and second is to make the reader care about your characters. Without empathy for your characters readers won’t care what happens to them. Once they care, you can really rev things up. I think it is all in the way you tell the story and how the characters come to life. Write about what you know, add in touches from your life and real people and it will come to life.

So, what, in your opinion, are the essential qualities of a good story?

(If you’d like me to interview you, please check out my author questionnaire http://patbertram.wordpress.com/author-questionnaire/ and follow the instruction.)

7 Responses to “What, in your opinion, are the essential qualities of a good story?”

  1. ROD MARSDEN Says:

    I agree with you that the journey is important. In my novel, Ghost Dance, there is the quest. It has always been the mainstay of western style literature and I think it always will be. With novels that I have really enjoyed there is the not wanting it to end and, at the same time, the belief that it has ended well. You need characters that readers can and will care about. Sometimes the conflict isn’t with people but the elements or with technology gone wrong. For example, a passenger plane is struck by a smaller plane. Both pilots are dead and it is up to the air hostess to try to bring the plane in for a landing despite the fact that she has had no pilot training and the aircraft is far from being in a sound condition. Some years ago when I was young there was the true story about a small boy who had wandered off and was lost in the bush. He had to be found within three days or he would not survive. There’s drama for you and no human villain around. Writing about what you know is always good advice. I know history to some extent. I also know what working in an office in Sydney, Australia in the 1990s was like because I was there. Desk Job, my latest novel, has fantasy elements but it is strongly based on what I know. Yes I would also say that making the writing easy to read is also a good point. Right now I am reading Ragtime and what I would like to cry out to the writer is this: “Would it have killed you to have broken up the pages with more paragraphs?” My thoughts at any rate.

  2. joylene Says:

    I just read Fifty Shades of Grey and am totally stuck for an answer. I would think good writing, but apparently not. I would think well-rounded characters and unpredictable forward motion, but apparently not. Gads, I’m not kidding. If this book is any indication of what to write to make millions, then I’m not going to make it.

    • ROD MARSDEN Says:

      Sex sells and Fifty shades of Grey apparently has the kind of sex in it that women like to read about. At any rate that is how it is being pushed on Australian

      • joylene Says:

        But, Rod, I’m a woman. The book was boring. Same old, same old! Honestly, I’m depressed about this.

        • ROD MARSDEN Says:

          I was just saying who the book was aimed at. I’m a man so it was never going to be my cup of tea even if it did turn out to be brilliant. If the book was boring then it was boring. Some times the same old same old sells and there’s no accounting for taste.

  3. lvgaudet Says:

    One thing that can be important and people seem to often overlook are names. Character names can make or break a story. I had one that I tried out of stubborness to finish and just couldn’t. The book had other issues, but almost every time a character’s name was mentioned it was a “?!” moment because the names were so wierd – and not in an exotic name way. (and this was published by a big publishing house and sold at Wal-Mart)

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      I’m a name snob. If a character name is not easily memorable, recognizable, and comfortable, I can’t get into the book, which keeps much science fiction and fantasy off my reading list.

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