We can all agree that there are two kinds of books: good books and bad books.
What we might not be able to agree is which ones are which.
There are obviously a broad array of genres and sub-genres. And there are also people with varying tastes and preferences.
But surely we can agree on some basic requirements for a good book. A truth, so to speak, universally acknowledged.
Let’s start with the most basic of basics. The writer has to be able to write to a decent standard, right?
Weeeell, not exactly.
There are plenty of bestselling books that are somewhat grammatically challenged. I don’t mean they aren’t full of beautiful, lyrical prose, I mean:
"The room was familiar; it had been belonged to me since I was born."
That’s an example from Twilight, but she’s by no means atypical. Dan Brown, Clive Cussler, Jeffrey Archer... these are all multi-million selling authors and they very often have passages in their books that seem to have been translated from some foreign language by Google.
And yet, people enjoy their books, pay money for the hardback version, eagerly await the next one.
But wait, there are some things that never work.
Don’t start with a character waking up (Hunger Games), don’t have it all be a dream (Alice in Wonderland), don’t make children’s books over a certain length (Harry Potter), a good romance has the protagonists end up together (Wuthering Heights). Frankly, you think of a reasonable piece of advice about writing and I’ll give you an example of a world famous book that did the opposite.
Times change, though. What was once popular isn’t going to get the same reaction today. People don’t want to see the same story over and over.
Really? Really? Have you seen the bestseller list lately? Watched a movie in the last thirty years? Stories aren’t just about new and original and broadening minds. It’s also about escapism and comfort and reassurance. Thrillers and romances, the two major genres, serve a purpose, and they can serve it and reserve it in a very familiar package with no loss of interest from the paying public.
Yes, but once a character has done what they have to do, that’s their turn over. Bring on the next guy.
Actually, I think probably the opposite is true. If a character does something well, people want to see them do it again and again. Even if some get bored, many don’t, and new people are being born all the time.
In fact, if the character deviates from their normal behaviour, it can lead to uproar. And if the author dies, the publishers just hire someone else to keep milking the cash cow.
The point of this post is to say this: there is a broad spectrum of types of stories, and there are fans of every part. If you are a writer and you’re not sure if people are going to want to read what you come up with, be assured that there are.
That’s not to say you’re guaranteed a spot on the New York Times bestseller’s list—I’m sure there have been many wonderful books that never got noticed and nobody’s ever heard of—but the thing stopping you isn’t a lack of a market for what you’re selling.
A passionately written tale will transcend many of the sins of poor writing or clichés or being unfashionable. I’m in no way suggesting you shouldn’t try to write well and in something approaching serviceable English, but first fall in love with your story and tell it in a way that conveys some of what you feel about the characters and events.
Every book is a good book or a bad book to someone.
If you found this post useful, please give it a retweet. Cheers
*Check out my latest stories for free on Wattpad.