WWK Blogger Paula Gail Benson has two short stories running in Kings River Life Magazine this weekend, "Pelican Spring" and "The Mama Factor." Both are Mother's Day short stories. You can read them by going to: http://kingsriverlife.com/category/kings-river-reviewers/terrific-tales/
Linda Rodriguez is a finalist in two categories for the International Latino Book Awards (given out at BEA the end of May)--one for Every Last Secret and one for editing Woven Voices: 3 Generations of Puertorriquena Poets Look at Their American Lives (with Gloria Vando, Anika Paris, and Anita Velez-Mitchell). Congratulations, Linda!
The second SinC Guppy anthology, Fish Nets, has been released by Wildside Press. WWK authors, Gloria Alden, Warren Bull, Kara Cerise and E. B. Davis have short stories in this volume, which can be bought at Wildside Press, the usual retailers and will be available at the Malice Domestic Conference. Look for "the story behind the stories" on May 1 here!
Upcoming Salad Bowl Saturdays include authors Carolyn Mulford on 5/25 and Liz Mugavero on 6/1. If you are interested in being a guest blogger, send a message to Jim Jackson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
What Makes a Book Good?
We are enjoying the company of our grandchildren. Each summer they visit us for a week or so without their parents. Lola, who will be nine about the time school starts, and I were talking about books. She’s a reader, and I abet her by giving her lots of books for Christmas. She started our conversation on this topic by exclaiming, “This is such a good book. It’s only the second chapter and already something really bad has happened.”
Mrs. Zarroli who Ramona talked about on Friday to learn from, so hers is an unadulterated experience. I asked Lola a bunch of questions and here’s what she said.
What’s a good beginning? I like bad things to happen at the beginning, even if I don’t understand them. And a good book has to have a mystery.
What makes interesting characters? The people in the book have to take risks. They have to be sneaky and stuff like that. In this book they had to break into the principal’s office. They take on a lot of stuff that we do not. If something goes wrong then something really bad is going to happen to them.
There is a pair of sisters that are so unalike. One is grouchy and the other is very nice. One likes fairy tales and the other doesn’t. Sometimes one is nice and sometimes the other isn’t. But they have to do stuff together. A good character in my opinion is brave and smart; they can trust people; they can take a lot of risk. If they’re funny that’s good too.
And I don’t like it when (for example) Sabrina magically pulled out of her pants pocket a whistle called the wind and blew away the problem.
What makes a good book’s ending? Usually it ends well, but sometimes the best books don’t end well and that can be good too.
There you have it from an eight-year old. We don’t need to graduate from high school, be an English Lit major in college or earn an MFA degree. Kids know good stories when they hear or read one: You need a good early hook and there has to be a mystery. You need interesting characters; they can’t be all alike and there has to be conflict. The characters need to be larger than life and take risks—risks that we wouldn’t normally take.
The plot has to make sense. Deus ex machina is a big no-no, and the ending can be either a good thing or a bad thing as long as it’s satisfying.
What’s so hard about that?