By Deanna Proach
There are so many books and articles on the topic of fiction–how to write it and how not to write it–that it’s easy to become overwhelmed with information and to become highly critical of our work as a result.
While it’s important to be aware of the various pitfalls and how to avoid them, you should also know about the five elements that make a novel engaging.
1. Unforgettable Characters. An engaging novel always has one, two or more characters that stand out and who are truly unforgettable. Such characters are often passionate, emotional, brave, charming, determined, caring or romantic. They can also be domineering, hot-tempered or cruel.
2. Conflict. A story just isn’t a story without conflict. Many stories still follow the conventional, heroes-journey plotline where the conflict is always between the good characters and the evil characters. No doubt, such novels are good reads, and they will always entertain millions of readers. Although, you don’t have to follow the heroes-journey formula in order to make your novel gripping.
Conflict is not black and white in that it’s not always confined to good versus evil. In reality, people who we would consider ‘good’ argue and fight amongst each other. The people who we would consider the bad people fight each other all the time.
3. Dialogue and Narrative. The most engaging novels contain a healthy balance of dialogue and narrative. While some scenes are mostly dialogue, others are mostly narrative. Dialogue serves to build characters’ personalities and relationships, and it’s a powerful tool to show conflict between characters. Narrative, on the other hand, paints pictures. It provides readers with a clear understanding of the setting, giving them a good idea of what it looks like, what the characters look like and how they live.
4. Good Writing Skills. Good writing strengthens a book and an author’s credibility because people like reading literature that is of good quality in writing style. But, what exactly makes writing good? In terms of fiction, the rule of thumb is not too literary and not too juvenile. The best written novels are those that are not drowning in clichés and adjectives–especially those that are hard to pronounce and understand–and run-on sentences. At the same time, the writing isn’t choppy and over simplistic. The best writing style is when it’s easy to understand, yet descriptive, passionate and devoid of grammatical errors.
5. A Gripping Plotline. The most engaging novels always grab readers’ attention in the first paragraph of the first chapter and hold their interest until the very last word. The ideal plotline, one that most people agree makes a good read, is one that has strong characters–good and bad–involves a lot of conflict that culminates in a climax then has some kind of resolution in the end.
If you want your novel to contain all of these elements, read books written by your favorite author. Read a variety of books, browse through the bookstore. You’ll find out what sells well. By doing this, you will get a good idea of how to make your novel engaging and salable.
Deanna Proach writes for discounts.ca, an online store that specializes in promotional codes. She is also the author of a contemporary YA novel titled ‘To be Maria’ (PULSE).
Junying’s Note: I’m extremely grateful to Deanna for sharing this wonderful article with my author friends and visitors to my blog. Please let us know if you have any writing tips to share or any thoughts on Deanna’s sound advice on how to make your novel writing engaging. Thank you!