What Makes a Lasting Novel

This paragraph comes from an interview I did recently, and I just wanted to put it out there for your consideration. This is something I’ve been thinking a lot about, especially as I’ve been finishing my book and really considering the writing craft intensely. The below is a thought on what makes a book stick in a reader’s memory, and it dovetails with a writer’s main objective:

The books I remember most are the ones that capture my emotions and make me feel intensely. One of my favorites is HOW TO SAY GOODBYE IN ROBOT by Natalie Standiford. It captured teenage loneliness and longing so well that it bring tears to my eyes with each rereading. That and being able to create images for readers that stay with them. I’ll never be able to forget the Rue/flowers scene in THE HUNGER GAMES (the book version, not the movie version, sorry!) or Hazel and Augustus “drinking stars” in THE FAULT IN OUR STARS. If you can create moments that feel as real as our own memories, you’ve got a reader for life.

8 Replies to “What Makes a Lasting Novel”

  1. Great post. I love the idea of creating moments that feel as real as our own memories. That’s a good thing to strive for, and so I shall.

  2. I guess that’s the trick for us writers, isn’t it. I think we all know WHAT we need to do, but HOW to do it and make it visceral and real is the challenge.

    I think perhaps it’s this ability to make the reader really feel that separates the wheat from the chaff. Or the best-sellers from the slush pile.

  3. Creating a moment is a good writing prompt (thinking aloud) and you’re right, it’s those moments that make so much impact after characters have been developed over time.

  4. I like to make the comparison between timeless appeal of a book and why Shakespeare is a writer for all time. Even though he very much wrote about issues and characters of his own time, ultimately his themes and characters have resonated across cultures and eras. I feel like a lot of these books right now that are being written to trends, like paranormal romance, won’t have very long shelf lives because they lack that kind of timelessness. A good litmus test is to ask yourself if your story would still be meaningful and translate if you set it in another culture or era, or if it only works in one specific setting.

  5. This is good and timely for me–Just finished Okay for Now. The characters are stuck in my memory because I felt their pain in such a real way. Also, I think a lot of times as writers if we say, “and then I cried, and cried,” Or, “And then he/she cried,” we think the reader will feel something but we don’t. We have to craft those emotions in a much more creative and real way. It’s so much harder than telling your audience he/she/I cried. Great post!

  6. I´ve been thinking about this too. Mostly in the Ursula Nordstrom quote, “…dig deep and tell the truth.”

    That moment when you find the true heart of the novel.
    But I´m still digging.

  7. Totally agree. It’s similar to movies… iconic moments that stick in your head and have some metaphorical resonance work like magic.

  8. Laura Stone says:

    Sometimes that memorable moment can be as short as a single sentence.

    “Then I ran out of cheese.”

    I’ll never forget that line out of Love Aubrey. It’s amazing the impact those six words had on the beginning of the story.

    When I write something this meaningful, it will be a good day.

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