I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, especially as I’m progressing through my Production Schedule for 2014. I’m drafting more, and getting more books out, and am learning more and more what I do well and what I’m not so hot at.
I think this comes down to inspiration, a lot of the time. As much as I love books, there are few that I’m truly blown away by. And what blows me away about these books, ultimately, is the “voice” they have–the dance between character, story, and prose.
In other words: what am I looking for in a book to increase the chances my socks are going to be blown off, and consequently inspires me to write better, both in the stories I write and the way that I write them? What makes my heart go all pitter-pat while I’m reading (chances are, it’s not a shirtless hunk making me swoon). Resonating with your audience = success, but how, exactly, is this accomplished?
Here are my top three criterion in rating my socks-blown-offness factor:
Example: Memoirs of a Geisha (Arthur Golden)
The sheer music of the prose of this book makes me downright giddy. The world-building, the characters–all are seriously wonderful on their own, but they would never live up to their full potential without the stream-like pacing and rhythm of the prose. I’ve been told–by multiple people–that my prose is lyric. But when I compare what I do with all the layers of awesome in Memoirs, it’s like comparing a single instrument or voice to an entire Philharmonic.
Example: The Replacement and The Space Between (Brenna Yovanoff)
Oh. My. GAWD. I don’t know how Yovanoff does it, but she goes for the throat with Every. Single. Word. She goes beyond lyricism and haunting prose to reach whole new levels of fearless storytelling. Her characters are beyond damaged, making their emotional journeys almost beyond bearing–but still manages to tend that one small, shining kernal of hope. You long for her protagonists to win despite all the odds–and are never quite sure how they possibly can. She is the exemplary of truely fearless storytelling.
The Crack Factor
Example: Immortals After Dark series (Kresley Cole)
By “Crack Factor” I mean a level of addictiveness that goes beyond reason. And by “beyond reason” I mean finishing an entire series (12 or 13 books worth) within a couple of weeks, and salivating for the next one. What makes a series crack-worthy?
Compelling characters and escalating stakes? Check. Super hot, believable romance? Check. Tremendous world-building with and over-arcing mythos? Definitely. But there’s something in the banter between characters, the action and adventure that drives the story from page to page in a way rarely seen. You get a strong sense the author LOVES writing these books–and there is absolutely nothing else she would rather be doing. It’s like hanging out with your best friends over pitchers of margaritas and listening to a story told by the funniest one of the group–long, epic tales full of booze, unexpected adventure, and hilarity.
It calls to mind one of the few episodes I ever saw of Friends. A character (who we never met) was blowing into town, but is referred to as “Gandalf” because he’s a wizard. You party with Gandalf, you never knew what was going to happen–a pitcher of beer at the local pub concludes three days later with in a small jail cell over the Mexican border being shared with a donkey and no idea of how they all got there.
This is what reading a Kresley Cole book is like. Between the running jokes from book to book like “Nucking-Futs Nix”, couples so star-crossed its amazing there aren’t colliding super-novas in outer space, and the rollicking adventures that are a cross between Tomb Raider and Buffy The Vampire Slayer, it’s astounding I ever slept at all during the couple of weeks it took me blow through the existing books.
Lyricism, devastating storytelling, and the Crack Factor–these are all things I want readers to be saying about my books one day, all the things I aspire to in my own work.
How about you? How would you like to be known as an author, and are there specific steps you’re taking to work toward these goals? Sound off in the comments!