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Saturday, September 1, 2012

What Makes a "Good Read"?

I sat and considered different topics for my blog today, and kept coming back to this:

What makes a romance book a "good read"?

So much has changed in our industry as to HOW you can receive a romance story. Print (both normal and large size)? Digital? Audio?

I'm at the point where I don't buy print books unless it's REALLY something special. I have an ereader. That's all I need. I could listen to audio books, but I'm more of a visual learner than audio learner.

How I receive a story isn't really important; it's the quality of the writing that counts. And, I've read some awful big NY published books (actually didn't finish the ones I considered terrible) as well as newly, first-time published author books (from epubs/small publishers/self-pubbed).

Here's what I need to be truly enticed and immersed in a romance book:

1. Have a great opening hook.
Please...spare me the flowery, overdone setting with descriptions of every bush, tree, river, piece of furniture in a room, etc. My eyes glaze over at too much setting description. I don't need nor want a lot of it...I can create a room/scenery from small tidbits an author gives.

I WANT to be suddenly involved in a story. Having dialogue first always intrigues me. It's like sneaking up behind the people talking and eavesdropping on their conversation. And, so much about the characters/scene can be deduced from listening to the characters' words.

Get me involved. Put me right into the action. But, don't have SO much going on that I can't figure out who is talking or what names/places they're talking about. I once read a book for an RWA contest, and was completely turned off after the first two pages. I had no idea who the people were, what places they were talking about, etc. Perhaps it was because it was a series book and I hadn't read the first two books. Character names and names of places were tossed out to the reader so quickly that I felt I needed to make lists of names in order to proceed if I wanted to continue with the book. 

2. Give me names I can pronounce/read/relate to. Okay. I know paranormal books don't always give this option, but IF the book is intriguing, I can overlook some weird names/spellings. But if you have names that start to irritate me because I can't read them....or they're 4 words'll lose me.

3. Have a great plot. It can be simple. There's nothing wrong with boy meets girl, boy and girl are attracted to each other but have a conflict, boy and girl overcome conflict. It can be complicated but not TOO complicated. Too many subplots/tangents to a story can be frustrating and I'll lose interest.

4. Don't have Spelling/grammar/editing mistakes. They immediately take me away from the story. Books need to be carefully edited with lots of "eyes" checking every page.

5. Have dialogue that sounds "real" otherwise I can't stay focused. It doesn't matter what genre I'm reading, the dialogue needs to make me feel like I'm standing right there, in the action/heat of the moment, hearing" flowing conversation that makes sense.

6. Create likable characters. The hero needs to be sensitive/guy next door/helpful...strong but somehow vulnerable. The heroine needs to be sensitive/girl next door/helpful...strong but not overly aggressive. Some romances take the "strong" woman approach too far and heroines can actually become annoying. I don't want heroines to lose their feminine side...nor do I want heroes to become wimpy crying, and submissive.

7. Use your voice; don't try to copy another author's voice. Tell the story YOUR way. Trying to become like someone else and copy their voice/style can be distracting. And, you may switch back and forth while writing since your "inner voice" will attempt to tell your story.

8. Have a great cover and title. Covers can be a turn-off. I've seen some strange/awkward ones that left me wondering what the artist/author really wanted displayed. And titles? Please. Make them simple but not weird. I know and admire author Carla Cassidy and her writing...however, her book titled "Pregnesia" is one of the worst titles I've seen.

These are my suggestions. These are what will keep me reading a book I'd consider a "good read".

Photos: Flickr: o5com and Lel4nd's photostreams.


Tina Donahue said...

I agree with all you've said. I'd add one thing - witty dialogue between the hero/heroine - a sense of play in all the drama - wicked teasing. Stuff that makes you smile. :)

Marianne Stephens said...

Good point...that absolutely keeps me reading!

Cara Marsi said...

Marianne, I can't add anything else. You've covered everything I like/don't like in romance novels. I agree I don't like heroines who are so kick-ass and stubborn they won't accept help from anyone. I like a little softness along with the toughness in my heroines. And I love to see the vulnerable side of a big, tough guy.

Liz said...

all good stuff Marianne. thanks for the post

Mannouchka said...

Woo, Mariann I can't also add anything else this tropic is well describe enjoy reading I wish you a wonderful Saturday and Sunday

Molly Daniels said...

I agree with Tina; add in witty conversation and you've covered it all:)

Tracey H. Kitts said...

Since I feel the same way, I have these things in mind when I write a story. :)

The only thing I would add for erotic romance is don't make the sex gross. LOL Graphic is one thing, but blunt to the point of disgust is another. This one is probably a matter of personal taste. However, if I read a book where the sex isn't sexy, I stop reading.

Same for if the "hero" is too pushy about sex. That's a big turn-off for me.

I attempted to read a book by a very well-known author once where the hero kept mentioning how the heroine "smelled," if you know what I mean. This was on his mind constantly AND he kept saying it out loud. Yuck.

Karen H in NC said...

I totally agree with everything you all have said but I have a couple of my own pet peeves.

1. Covers of people hand drawn by someone who believes they are actually artists but have dorky looking, out of proportion people. Doesn't do it for me.

2. Sex scenes that make me think the hero is a contortionist with eight arms. He's kissing her with one hand on her breast and the other caressing her ankle...all at once? Positioning the people properly in the scene is part of it and I don't think a lot of authors think that part through completely. It's petty, but it throws me off the scene.

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