I read more than one genre. I lean toward a good story with an element of romance. I do enjoy various sub-genres of romance. I like sci-fi and thrillers. Danger and adventure is great escape. I love stories where good wins over evil and the hero gets the girl, or vice versa. I read for entertainment. I want something that gives me a break from day to day cares and concerns and makes me feel good.
I got to thinking about some books I read recently and what is was that drew me to them. It wasn't a new concept. I've been reading paranormal for sometime and trust me there is no ‘new’ idea out there, just a fresh way of presenting those ideas. And all three of these authors did that. Still, that wasn't it. What was it about these stories that drew me and even made me want to visit their worlds again (I've now reread two entire series and part of the third)?
What made these different? Upon reflection, there were several things made the series special.
One of the biggest draws for me was a sense of community and a well-developed world. That’s a big one for me. I want the world to feel real enough that if I could arrange a trip I would recognize it. Real enough that I would want to visit if I could. That doesn't require ad nausem pages of description but it does take some well place phrases to give me a sense of place. Carolyn Brown nails that sense of place and community very well. Anne McCaffrey does as well. Her Pern series is excellent because of it. Another is Alex Cavanaugh with his world, community, and friendships. Jennifer Ashley with her Shifters series is also outstanding in realistic world building. It gives a feeling of a mini vacation when I read the worlds these authors create. And, I can reread them more than once (and have) with the same sense of wonder and enjoyment as I did the first time.
Another is the characters themselves. I don’t need comedy skits but I do like humor and sass. Good repertoire between characters (Thea Harrison does a great job with banter and adding fun zingers between friends and family—love her Elder Races series). I like seeing and feeling the friendship and if there is feeling of distrust and measuring prior to becoming friends or allies, or a lack of friendship and trust, I want to understand why. A sense of dimension and scope in their personalities so they feel real. I want a clear enough picture of them as a person that I can determine why do what they do or like or dislike what they do. I need an understandable picture of their goals and motivations. Realistic actions and reactions.
Sense of family is another draw. I want to see and feel the bond between family members. Family doesn't always agree with one another. Regardless of the love there is still squabbles and disagreements. It’s a natural thing. So, strong and realistic interactions and reactions are important. That sense of family isn't limited to blood. As the wise man once said, there is the companion that is closer to us than a brother. What that means is that strong bond of love can be between friends and those friends can be a family.
There are several authors that do both well. I've always admired Nora Roberts for her ability to create a tight bond of love and friendship. She also creates a realistic picture of family by blood. I think that’s why, aside from a good story, I like reading her trilogies. She nails family and friendship so well. Donna Grant and Jennifer Ashley do, too.
When I stop and analyze the books I really enjoy it helps me look at my own writing more critically. Am I hitting those benchmarks? Do my stories have strong family connections and the sense of community and place? What can I do to add more depth and atmosphere to my world or people? What layers can I go back and add to give my story so it has more impact?
- What components draw you to your favorite authors?