Thursday, April 5, 2012
Any author who wants their stories to be read has to write good ones. Here's the dilemma - how does one know what makes a good story? I doubt that anyone sets out to write a bad story, but on the other hand, I bet there are few - experts included - who can unimpeachably say what truly makes a good one.
Being an as yet unpublished author, I don't qualify to even attempt an answer to the question. But of one thing I am sure. Readers are a very good indicator of whether or not the story is a good one. If it is, they will talk, and talk and talk about it. Non-stop. They will know the characters, have favorite characters and scenes, disagree with other readers about the finer points of the story, and on and on. When that happens, those who matter have declared the story a good one - no matter what an expert may say.
The corollary to the above has to be that if there is only ringing silence, the story is not - yet? - a good one. Very few will tell an author that a story is bad, or can even point out problems that keep a story from being good. Most of us, careful of the feelings of others, will simply say nothing or avoid situations where we could be asked.
So even though I can't definitively say what makes a good story, we all know it when we see it - readers will be knocking down the door to say how much they love it. Unless they are, there needs to be more work. And another thing we all know: agents and publishers are readers too.