If you are interested in blogging or want to promote your book next year, please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com

Our April author interviews: Perennial author Susan Wittig Albert--4/5, Sasscer Hill, horse racing insider--4/12, English historical, cozy author, TE Kinsey--4/19, Debut author, Susan Bickford--4/26.

Saturday Guest Bloggers in April: Heather Baker Weidner (4/1), Christina Hoag (4/8), Susan Boles (4/29). WWK Saturday bloggers write on 4/15--Margaret S. Hamilton and on 4/22--Kait Carson.

Julie Tollefson won the Mystery Writers of America Midwest Chapter's Holton Award for best unpublished manuscript (member category) for her work in progress, In The Shadows. Big news for a new year. Congratulations, Julie.

Congratulations to our writers for the following publications:

Warren Bull's new Lincoln mystery, Abraham Lincoln In Court & Campaign has been released. Look for the Kindle version on February 3.

Shari Randall's "Pets" will be included in Chesapeake Crimes: Fur, Feathers, and Felonies anthology, which will be published in 2018. In the same anthology "Rasputin," KM Rockwood's short story, will also be published.

Margaret S. Hamilton's short story, "Once a Kappa" was published as a finalist in the Southern Writer's Magazine annual short story contest issue. Mysterical-E published her "Double Crust Corpse" in the Fall 2016 issue. "Baby Killer" will appear in the 2017 solar eclipse anthology Day of the Dark to be published this summer prior to the eclipse in August.

Linda Rodriquez has two pending book publications. Plotting the Character-Driven Novel will be released by Scapegoat Press on November 29th. Every Family Doubt, the fourth Skeet Bannion mystery, is scheduled for release on June, 13, 2017. Look for E. B. Davis's interview with Linda here in June!

Cross Genre Publications anthology, Hidden Youth, will contain Warren Bull's "The Girl, The Devil, and The Coal Mine." The anthology will be released in late November 2016. The We've Been Trumped anthology released by Dark House Press on September 28th contains Warren Bull's "The Wall" short story and KM Rockwood's "A Phone Call to the White House." KM writes under the name Pat Anne Sirs for this volume.

James M. Jackson's 4th book in the Seamus McCree series, Doubtful Relations, is now available. His novella "Low Tide at Tybee" appears February 7 as part of Lowcountry Crimes: Four Novellas, which is available for order.

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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.”

Aha, I thought, a chance to learn what makes a book good from a nascent reader—Lola hasn’t yet had a teacher like 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?

~ Jim

6 comments:

Ramona said...

Young Lola could teach writing workshops. Her comments are terrific.

kd easley said...

That was great. She covered all the points. You may have a future writer on your hands.

James Montgomery Jackson said...

Lola is a writer, although she thinks of herself as more of an artist because she illustrates her stories and prefers to verbalize her stories rather than to write them. (Who can blame her when she's at an age where her verbal vocabulary far exceeds her spelling vocabulary.)

The only question is what she'll choose to do with her talents. It will be fun to watch them mature.

~Jim

Polly said...

Absolutely loved your granddaughter's comments, Jim. Makes me want to start some of my books over. What a smart young lady.

Annette said...

As a former school librarian, I really appreciate this post.

MichaelEdits.com said...

Lola has positively nailed it. I think I need her help on my WIP.