Tuesday, April 28, 2009

What makes a Keeper?

Have you ever had the experience of watching a movie with an “expert” and have them tell you that the movie people got it all wrong? I have. My husband is a computer whiz, built his own PC in the mid-seventies (my age is showing) and always comments at the critical part of the movies when the computers blow up that’s not how it would happen. When we were watching 24 a couple of years ago and Jack was racing out of the room after sabotaging the computers, having the computers flame out, my husband said, “Not true.”

Well professional writers sometimes get picky like that when they read. It’s worse if you teaching writing, which I do at the local community college. But when you come across a book that knocks your socks off, that is pure pleasure. I had that happen the other day. I usually read action adventure and intrigue books, but I read my friend’s current book, HAND ME-DOWN-FAMILY by Winnie Griggs (Love Inspired Historicals, Mar 09). This is a wonderful story about a woman who becomes a mother and widow to her mail--order family. The story kept me turning the pages, eager to see what comes next. This is a keeper for me. It reminded me of Courting Miss Hattie by Pamela Morsi.

What makes a good book? Is it the writing? Plotting? The characters? What is it that makes those certain books stand out among the others? I love action and write it, but when I think about the books that I’ve written, what do I remember the most? It is the characters. My first book was the heroine’s story. She was the son her father never had.

I’ve read a lot of good books and over the years the level of writing in popular fiction has risen. (I think RWA is responsible for that.) But, what is it that makes a story stay with you?

What do you think makes a book a keeper? What is one of your keepers?
p.s, the picture has nothing to do with my thoughts. It was just a fun picture my son took while in Austin a couple of years ago.


Anonymous said...

I would have to say for me that a books a keeper if I can relate to the story or the heroine. The character has to intrigue me. I want read a book if I cannot relate to the character. Oh, the picture is gorgeous. Turtles are such beautiful creatures.

PamelaTracy said...

I loved Courting Miss Hattie. I'll have to look for Winnie's book.

SketchGirl said...

It has to have a bit of fun, I love it when sparks fly verbally between the hero and heroine yet in the end they have brought out the best in each other so they can resolve and grow spiritually from the issue in their lives that has previously held them back. Loving Wings of Refuge series by Cheryl Wyatt

Vince said...

Hi Leann:

I think half the value and impact of a novel is what the reader brings to the reading experience. There is a saying in the East, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” I think this is true with books. If you are at a stage in life to deeply appreciate the insights a given book presents, then that book will be a keeper ‘in your heart’ – which I consider as more important than a keeper on your bookshelf.

I think a ‘keeper’ transcends genre. My favorite romance keeper is the “Sisterhood of the Dropped Stitches” four book series by Janet Tronstad. This series spoke to me on many levels. I lived in Pasadena, I went to PCC, I knew a Rose Queen who looked just like a heroine described as a Rose Queen in the books. Our family has experience too many cancer deaths and this series features four heroines winning over cancer. This is very powerful writing that goes well beyond romance.

Yet, if I were twenty, with a whole exciting life ahead of me, and I was fancy free and backpacking for a summer through Europe, I doubt I’d have given these books a second thought. Back then I loved the great unrequited love stories like the “Sorrows of Young Werther” by Goethe and “La Dame aux Camillas” by Alexandre Dumas fils. What a youthful experience to read ‘Camille” in Paris in French and then visit her grave at the Montmartre cemetery. Now that was romantic. Ah, yes.

You can control what you say but you cannot control what people hear. You can control what you write but you can’t control the reader’s reading experience.

And that's what makes horse races.


jeaneintexas said...

To me, a keeper is a book that
has a difficult situation which
might seem to really be impossible,
but is believable even after you've
finished. That's due to the skill
of the writing. And life experiences of the reader enter into it. "The Hunt For Red October" is not a new book, but has the plot of the Russian
sub trying to defect without being
caught by the Russians or being
sunk by us because they can't use
the radio. For someone my age who
lived thru the cold war with atom
bomb drills in the schools,(& then the same drills for our kids) that
danger for the sub probably makes
it more real than for younger readers. If you've not read it,
give it a try & see the movie too.