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Thread: What do you demand of a novel?

  1. #51
    Travel biologist, piss-poor fluffer quicklime's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken View Post
    ... date of publication. If it's been published after 1951 I toss it in the trash, unless it's by an (((AW author))).

    if you're not being flippant you're missing some excellent authors. tastes will vary, but if you can't find anything by Oates, King, Ishigoru (who I almost certainly misspelled), Ellis, Pratchett, etc. to your liking....you can't be looking very hard.
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  2. #52
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    Quote Originally Posted by EarlyBird View Post
    It depends on the book.

    Literary fiction must be well written, with thoughtful, ingenious prose and multi-layered characters.

    Historical fiction demands rich, vibrant settings with enough historical details to make me think I've learned something about that place and time.

    Contemporary fiction, specifically women's fiction, must be told in a modern voice and feature a strong main character, one I could envision as my neighbor or co-worker or clerk at the grocery store. Real, in other words.

    Suspense novels have to be relatively fast-paced. Don't give me too much description, just stick with the action and move along at a good clip.

    Naturally, every novel should have elements of each of these characteristics, but for me the extent varies with the genre.

    An across-the-board deal breaker for me is sloppy/confusing sentence construction and typos. I might overlook one or two, but beyond that I move on to the next book.
    Some great points. A lot to think about- thanks

  3. #53
    The Appleton House ccarver30's Avatar
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    I must must must CARE about the main character.
    With A Catcher in the Rye, I HATED, loathed, despised the MC. I was praying for his demise throughout the entire book. I wanted to be able to say that I read that miserable p.o.s. so I continued onward...

    Don't give me details that I do not need. It must be woven in to the story somehow or MEAN something. Don't give me the microscopic details of how your MC gets ready in the morning- I'm pretty sure most of us do the same boring sh&t. lol Just say he got ready for work!!

  4. #54
    writer, rider, reader...ex-pat! BethS's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bebop View Post
    Do we agree, I wonder, that just as in movies there are certain places in a story where something has to happen? I doubt it's as stringent in novels (though I'm not sure of this) but just places where the reader/audience is saying to themselves- "Ok, I'm with you so far. But something better happen here."
    Of course something has to happen and it has to matter. That's what separates fiction from a list of events.

    As to characters--when I say unlikeable, I mean characters who are whiny, or jerks, or whose goals are so petty I can't identify with them.

  5. #55
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    Just saw this quote from Tom Clancy- "The difference between fiction and reality is that fiction has to make sense."

  6. #56
    Travel biologist, piss-poor fluffer quicklime's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bebop View Post
    Just saw this quote from Tom Clancy- "The difference between fiction and reality is that fiction has to make sense."

    there's a lot of quotes along those lines.
    Three words that convey the meaning of six will always look better than twelve...


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  7. #57
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    Quote Originally Posted by quicklime View Post
    there's a lot of quotes along those lines.
    I'm sure. I get these things on my home page every time I go on. A lot from writers, politicians, etc.

  8. #58
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    Quote Originally Posted by BethS View Post
    Of course something has to happen and it has to matter. That's what separates fiction from a list of events.

    As to characters--when I say unlikeable, I mean characters who are whiny, or jerks, or whose goals are so petty I can't identify with them.
    Yeah, I just meant at certain times. Maybe it varies a bit for each of us, depending on our individual level of patience, but I don't think it does very much.

  9. #59
    practical experience, FTW Ken's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by quicklime View Post
    if you're not being flippant you're missing some excellent authors. tastes will vary, but if you can't find anything by Oates, King, Ishigoru (who I almost certainly misspelled), Ellis, Pratchett, etc. to your liking....you can't be looking very hard.
    ... it's not a matter of quality. I totally acknowledge that there are some very great and brilliant authors who wrote novels after 1951. My reasons for avoiding them and their peers are based on other considerations that probably don't have much of a place in this thread. So I won't bore anybody with the details. And maybe more than avoiding contemporaries, I'm just enamored of a certain era of the past which draws me to it and refuse to let go.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bebop View Post
    Not sure if I believe you, Ken. I subscribe to the campaign of Christian McBride, the great jazz bass player- All well and good to acknowledge the greats of the past-- But, "Support LIVING musicians!"

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_McBride
    ... with Jazz, I am ashamed to admit that I honestly don't like the new stuff. There are one or two contemporary musicians that are good, but that's as far as I'll go. Listening to the old stuff by Parker and the like has spoiled me. Music of that era was just so amazingly sublime and awesome that when I listen to the new stuff -- well I just can't get into it. I am glad that others do though and that you yourself are included in that group. One less supporter of the new stuff isn't going to make much of a difference.

  10. #60
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken View Post
    ... it's not a matter of quality. I totally acknowledge that there are some very great and brilliant authors who wrote novels after 1951. My reasons for avoiding them and their peers are based on other considerations that probably don't have much of a place in this thread. So I won't bore anybody with the details. And maybe more than avoiding contemporaries, I'm just enamored of a certain era of the past which draws me to it and refuse to let go.



    ... with Jazz, I am ashamed to admit that I honestly don't like the new stuff. There are one or two contemporary musicians that are good, but that's as far as I'll go. Listening to the old stuff by Parker and the like has spoiled me. Music of that era was just so amazingly sublime and awesome that when I listen to the new stuff -- well I just can't get into it. I am glad that others do though and that you yourself are included in that group. One less supporter of the new stuff isn't going to make much of a difference.
    Hey, to each his own, Ken. I'm not one to proselytize. I do have a couple close relatives who are great jazz guitarists, though. I'll hip you to 'em one of these days.

  11. #61
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    I want to recognize something of myself in a character. A shared emotion, a shared experience, similar personality traits...or at least traits that make the character likable. I like seeing something I can identify with, or something I'd like to be myself.

    Deal breakers- completely unsympathetic MC, too much whining, not enough happening in the story/story is unbelievable.

  12. #62
    practical experience, FTW Silver-Midnight's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Richard White View Post
    Entertain me.
    Don't bore me.
    Don't try to guilt me.
    Don't whine.
    Pretty much all of that for me as well. If I can read your book, and think "Wow, this is/was good", "I want to read more from them", "I can't put this down", and etc.

    Then I'm pretty much good to go.

    I am pretty forgiving honestly. The only real big thing I don't like are Mary-Sue/Gary-Stu-like characters. You know, ones that are insanely beautiful, have great clothes, great car, great friends, perfect job, and their lives are just awesome until [enter problem here] happens but it really doesn't affect them not really.

    I also don't like it when books go on and on about what a character has on. I can understand a few things; I'm a lot more forgiving if it's a special occasion or has a special purpose in the book, for example, a wedding. But, I don't like it when a character's clothes get described from their shoes to the top of their head. I know sometimes it's necessary because the writer is trying to show that the character likes fashion, clothes, or is slightly conceited but it's still just....slightly irritating to read sometimes.

  13. #63
    fluently sarcastic grandma offender ladyleeona's Avatar
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    I really only need to be entertained.
    And honestly, sometimes it doesn't take much.
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  14. #64
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    Quote Originally Posted by BethS View Post
    I know, I know. But I can't help it. Present tense drives me crazy. I'm constantly editing it back to past tense while I read.

    That said, I did suffer through it just so I could read Suspicion. Which was worth it.

    I'm in the same boat here, I just can't read present tense (unless it's a short story). For me the pacing or rhythm just isn't there. Then again, I actually enjoy 3rd-omni so maybe I'm just more of an observer than a have-to-see-it-through-their-eyes-in-the-moment reader.

    I have to have an engaging story - it has to keep moving, be something I'm interested in, and be somewhat realistic. I'll toss the book or skip chapters if it misses on any one of those.

    But I must really like the writing style to continue. I think I've lost patience over the years and will give up in a hurry (normally first chapter) if it's purple prose or amateurish (telling not showing, etc). I often wonder how some of these got through an agent, editor, and publisher. Because I don't finish the books, I never know (even if I did finish, I probably wouldn't get it either). My tastes just don't match the best seller's list sometimes.

    I find that for many of these posts on AW about reading, that I am in the minority when it comes to liking certain things or books. I used to read what was popular in order to learn learn from them, but I found I disliked many of them (for various reasons) and gave up that route.

    Seems like I've found:
    Good Story (Idea) + Bad Writing + Good or Bad Plotting > Average Story + Good Writing + Good Plotting

    As someone on here said, "just write what others want to read." Sounds easy enough.

  15. #65
    Whatever I did, I didn't do it. Phaeal's Avatar
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    I have over the years become reconciled to reading the present tense in novels. I'll write very short stories in the present, but my favorite use for it is for flashbacks and heightened reality/altered consciousness scenes in a past tense novel. Used sparingly, it retains some punch.
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  16. #66
    little orphan anarchist Raventongue's Avatar
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    Make me think. It doesn't have to be super-profound, but if all I wanted were entertainment I could go watch rush hour traffic.

    Besides that, it depends on why I'm reading. If I started a novel because I've read work by that writer before and liked it, or if the concept, cover or title caught my attention, then it's safe from being abandoned unless it takes an unexpected turn for the patently asinine.

    If I started reading a novel because I'd heard a lot about it, or because anyone I know to be a good writer (published or not) likes it, I actually have a formula. They have the first 30 pages to make me care enough about at least one major character to keep reading. This holds true regardless of whether it's an 800-page doorstopper or a 70-page novela.
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  17. #67
    practical experience, FTW Silver-Midnight's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ladylilchubb View Post
    I really only need to be entertained.
    And honestly, sometimes it doesn't take much.
    Eh, that too for me sometimes.

  18. #68
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    I need to forget I'm reading. That involves not being able to see the brush strokes, no matter how masterful they are.

    A brush stroke I've never been able to not see is third person present. Nails on a blackboard. I can get past any other tense and person.

  19. #69
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    Quote Originally Posted by ccarver30 View Post
    I must must must CARE about the main character.
    With A Catcher in the Rye, I HATED, loathed, despised the MC. I was praying for his demise throughout the entire book. I wanted to be able to say that I read that miserable p.o.s. so I continued onward...

    Don't give me details that I do not need. It must be woven in to the story somehow or MEAN something. Don't give me the microscopic details of how your MC gets ready in the morning- I'm pretty sure most of us do the same boring sh&t. lol Just say he got ready for work!!
    I agree with you- I gotta give a damn what happens to MC.

    It either progresses the story or adds to character, or it's a waste of time and real estate.

  20. #70
    practical experience, GTFO
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    It should help me see the world a little bit better.

  21. #71
    little orphan anarchist Raventongue's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Orchestra View Post
    It should help me see the world a little bit better.
    That's a good one. Much simpler than mine, xD
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  22. #72
    aye aye in search of an agent jilly61's Avatar
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    It needs a character that I love (or love to hate) and a situation that's believable on some level. Other than that I'm not too fussy.

    If I start something I'll usually finish it no matter how dire it is. I think you can learn something from the worst books as well as the best.
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    Course you could always go straight to Amazon.

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