Friday, March 02, 2012

Essential Elements For a Successful Book

Current Project: Rebel Heart
Status: in edits

Fireworks in the making: EEEKKK....

Blogs, blogs, and more blogs. Sometimes they are actually quite fun and sometimes they are a bit boring. I am currently getting ready for my second VBT with goddessfish. This makes 40 blogs for tours I have written since the first of December. There is sweat on my brow--well maybe my rapidly typing fingers.

One of the most asked questions in some form is:  what are the essential elements for a romance novel?

My first response to this is do really think I can answer this in less than 600 words? And in some cases this question pops up in an interview which means it needs to be answered in a short paragraph. Now I'm not saying this is a stupid question--not at all. The search for the answer has made me explore the idea. So, what are the most important elements?

Very briefly, I think the characters are at the top of my list. Have you ever read a book where you did not like the hero or the heroine? I have. And have I finished said book? Rarely. Characterization is my first step in my writing process. I know everything significant about each main character and the secondary characters who will play a role in the progression of the story. I know the characters flaws and their attributes. Everything...

How important is characterization to you?

Next on my list would be the major turning points as well as the black moment. From these elements I usually have a basic idea of the plot. And that is about as good as it gets for me. If I plot any more, it is a waste of time because my characters generally take over the books and send it in a different direction. I know I do extensive plotting but it is one scene at a time. And I don't plot the following scene until the one I am working on is written.

Where do you put major turning points and the black moment in your list of essential components?

Thirdly, (is that a word?), I believe point of view is extremely important. I dislike head hopping. It's annoying and confusing. I know that for some pov is difficult to understand but it is so important for maintaing tension. If one character doesn't know what the other is thinking, well... one can only imagine the consequences. 

POV-- where does this stand in your mind.

At this point I could still go on and on and elaborate in each paragraph but I will spare you and just ask for your opinions. I understand there are more components to a successful novel: sentence structure, grammar, themes, conflicts (internal, external, emotional) and the list goes on.

I think I should write a book. No, I don't think I would enjoy writing a book with this title. 

How about you. What do you think are the essential components.

In light of the concerns about pinterest, I will post one of my own photos today. Although I don't understand the uproar. It's a photo I took at Disney World a couple of years ago. 

And I would say...are there fireworks here?


Genene Valleau, writing as Genie Gabriel said...

Hi, Chris! I think your photo is as good as the ones on Pinterest. Very nice!

As for essential elements, you've hit many of the main ones for me.
--Without characters, there is no book.
--Turning points and black moment are good, but you know I do lots more plotting too. :)
--Point of view is also on my list, because it helps explain motivation, build tension and conflict, and just show the human side of a character.

Also important for me is leaving each scene and chapter with a cliff-hanger by building the emotional stakes of a character or ratcheting up the "ticking clock" in the plot to keep the story exciting.

Good post! And good luck with writing your blogs!

Meggan McQuaid said...

Chris, good thoughts. I have never been asked these questions, so it was lovely to have an opportunity to think about this is a structured way.

For me, for a romance, I agree that character is the most important thing. I also agree that the characters have to be likable and I have to know them pretty well.

I'm finding that an interesting villain is also, surprisingly, quite important to me. I don't like to read romances where the primary conflict is that the characters are too chicken to tell each other how they feel. Villains are an interesting vehicle to bring in an outside conflict as well as highlight a more complex internal conflict or two.

POV? Yes, good point that it lets you, the writer, hide some of what a character is feeling, adding to the tension. I've been using first person, which is problematic, and delightfully challenging.

I guess another really important element for me is sensory information. I like a rich visual, auditory, and olfactory environment. These things lead to subtle plot points and changes. Since I don't write big action, fights, or explosions, sensory information leads me along. For example...she knows her cousin likes her tea very white, so when the tea tray is brought in, she gets up to fix her cousin's tea, trips, and falls into the hero's arms for the first, huh?

Great topic!