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Question: What kind of elements do you guys like in a story?

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction and Writing Resource' started by Vonn, Oct 22, 2001.

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  1. Vonn

    Vonn Jedi Padawan star 4

    Jun 3, 2000
    If you would, I'd like some of you to think about your favorite books. Could you explain what elements you think those books had that made them your favorites?

    I'm not asking for general statements (like "it was full of action," or "it was full of character development.").

    I'm asking for specific things (ie. specific character traits, situations you could relate to, specific types of action scenes, whether a scene is dialogue/description/action driven, etc).

    The reason why I ask is because I'm working on a story, and I'd like to know what type of elements you guys like in a story. That way, when I do my next round of edits, I can tailor the story/characters/style/pacing and flow to be more appealing to readers.

    So, tell me. What do you find appealing in a story?
  2. IronParrot

    IronParrot Manager Emeritus star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Aug 2, 1999
    I like a sense of tone, a definite voice that really establishes the mood of the story.

    Narrative is an art that too many people often forsake, focusing entirely on "plot" and "character".

    I also think that even in an entirely plot-driven story that is without any intended allegory, the presence of applicable themes should be there. Otherwise, the story is just a plot point. To quote Donna Levin: "A plot should not be where a writer is buried"

    I like character development through actions, not words. I'll admit, though, that it's easier said than done. (No pun intended)
  3. Kitt327

    Kitt327 Jedi Master star 4

    Dec 23, 2000
    What I like are warm, human moments you can identify with. They make the story real, the characters real, and really make you care about what happens.

    One of my favourite books growing up was Charlie and the Chocolate factory. I haven't read it in about 8-10 years, but I can still recall all the human moments in it.

    Specific examples: There's a bit where Charlie is desperately hungry, and every morning he has to walk past the chocolate factory and smell chocolate in the air. The way it's described . . . you can actually feel his hunger. There's another bit when he's standing in front of a crowd with his Grandpa Joe, and the crowd is talking about him. Him and his grandpa share a smile.

    Charlie and the Chocolate factory is a fantastical story, which could never happen in real life, but it's all those little moments which make is so believable.
  4. Vonn

    Vonn Jedi Padawan star 4

    Jun 3, 2000
    Okay, the human moments I can relate definitely relate to.

    Iron Parrot,

    When you are talking about narrative voice, are referring to the work actually having "something to say," so to speak. For example, (to use a predictable example) are you kind of referring to Orwell's 1984 statement about the invasion of personal freedom and privacy as kind of "vocal theme?" Or are you possibly referring replacing the narrative with human voice to make it more personal?
  5. Talon Squad Leader

    Talon Squad Leader Former Manager star 5

    Dec 22, 1999
    For me, it is all about imagery. If I cannot conjur up the image that the author is trying to portray, I lose interest. I love descriptions, and those that literally paint a picture in one's mind of a scene or a action in a battle are the ones that I tend to favor.
  6. Mistress_Renata

    Mistress_Renata Manager Emeritus star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Sep 9, 2000
    Ditto to all the above, especially TSL's. When I write, I see it in my head as a film, and write what I see. If I have a fight scene, I don't write it unless I have worked out the choreography in my head. Then I figure out how to write it down.

    I also like heros who aren't perfect... my biggest quibble with the EU books is that the Jedi are completely unrealistic with their use of the Force. They can fly! They can move planets! (oh, please!) I like the hero to screw up, or to be vulnerable, or to fail sometimes, so that when s/he succeeds, it's a real victory.

    I also like a little humor; not to the cutesy/jokey every third paragraph, but witty repartee between the characters.

    One of my fave books is "Mapp and Lucia" by EF Benson. It's a social comedy of manners, set in 1920s England, about 2 ladies, each of whom wants to be the "Queen" of the little Society in their tiny seaside village. They are oh-so-polite to each other, but their manueverings and manipulations are so Machiavellian that you can't help but hang, breathless, wondering who will come out on top.

    I also like touches that make the "world" seem real... what do they eat? What are they wearing? Are their clothes comfortable, well-worn, or uncomfortable & fashionable? Do they have pets? Is their any odor? I guess what I mean is that description goes beyond "sight." Think about smells, tastes, touch & sound.
  7. Vonn

    Vonn Jedi Padawan star 4

    Jun 3, 2000
    I agree in that I think imagery is a wonderful thing. However, I have received at least one rather cryptic review that preferred me to leave the details to the readers' imagination as opposed to describing every minute detail.

    Is there a middle ground, and how do you think you can reach it? The method I've been using since that review is to put all the detail in as possible, then on the second revision, cut out detail to maintain pace.

    As for the comment about making imperfect characters, I would like to pose a question. What if you have imperfect heroes and also very human villains (not over the top) to where the line between good guy/bad guy is blurred or indistinct? Does that hinder the story?

    The reason why I ask is because in my current work, I'm doing just that. I'm painting a portrait of two people who both have valid reasons for wanting the other dead, and I am making a somewhat political statement with that aspect. Do you think confusing/deceiving the audience about whom to root for dimishes the story or emboldens it?
  8. Padawan_Di-Lee

    Padawan_Di-Lee Jedi Padawan star 4

    Oct 15, 2000
    Definitely emboldens it, Vonn, if you can pull it off. Being able to present two opposing sides in a reasonable grey zone rather than stark black and white is the epitome of character development.
  9. Mistress_Renata

    Mistress_Renata Manager Emeritus star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Sep 9, 2000
    Besides, it sounds as if you WANT audiences to decide for themselves regarding shades of gray. It's an interesting idea, so why not go for it? Particularly giving the villain a valid motive to be bad; very hard to do! :)

    I just find stories where the hero has unbelievable powers boring and un-credible, not to mention an insult to my intelligence! (certain EU authors, take heed!)
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