Hello! This week we’re excited to welcome Amber to the blog. She is the blogger behind YA Indulgences, a blog featuring reviews, features, and rambles. She’s here to share her thoughts on what makes a fantastic story, and we can’t wait to hear if her thoughts are similar to hers. After reading her guest post below, make sure to visit her blog and say hi to her on Twitter!– Kelley & Asti
What Makes a Fantastic Story?
“What do you think makes up an excellent story?”
A friend asked me this question and I really didn’t even know how to answer except in vague terms, “Interesting character, interesting plot, not fast-paced, unless it’s “that kind” of story, relatable characters”. Yeah, so you know, that’s not really personal. Now that the conversation is over with, I can totally think of better, well “me” answers,of course. 🙂
What I love about books is that people’s opinions are so subjective about them. Especially in the book blogosphere where everyone blogs about books. How many books have you read that others loved, but you felt yourself just not really into it? I’m sure there are at least a couple of these for everyone. So what made the story fall flat for you? The characters, the plot, the writing style? Something else entirely?
I wanted to write this post to share what I think makes a fantastic story because everyone feels so differently about this. That’s what makes reading so great.
I think characters can make or break a story and they can make a story go from being good to being great. I would like to think I’m not too picky with characters, but I know I definitely can be. Some characters will fly off the pages for me, like Finch from All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven and Skylar from I’ll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios. These two characters came alive to me because of how well-rounded they were. They were so alive that they jumped off the page, flaws and all.
For me, I need characters to be “real”, I need to feel their emotions, connect with them and forget they’re fictional. I like my characters to have a certain moral ground that they try stick to, but admit they’re wrong if they are. Of course, I have had my share of liking unlikeable characters like Liz Emerson in Falling Into Place by Amy Zhang.
It’s all the more better if I can relate to the main character and understand what she or he’s doing. One of the many reasons I loved I’ll Meet You There is because I could relate to Skylar so well, situation wise.
I’m not super big on plot-driven stories, but plots are definitely important. If a book is plot-driven, I want it to be pretty fast-paced and engaging enough that I have to keep reading. One of my favorite examples of this is Free To Fall by Lauren Miller and The Walled City by Ryan Graudin. The latter isn’t necessarily a plot-driven book, but there is a countdown going on throughout the story and everything that’s done is leading to that countdown. I love a plot that keeps me invested in the story, even if it’s slow paced.
A bad plot can ruin an otherwise story with the perfect characters and the perfect setting. For a story to be fantastic, I want a plot that keeps me engaged and encourages me to finish it. I love stories that feature plots I can relate to because it gives me a deeper connection to the book than otherwise.
The right setting for a story can make all of the difference. We Were Liars by E. Lockhart, Rites of Passage by Joy N. Hensley, and I’ll Meet You There all had spectacular settings. The setting can also affect the atmosphere of the story.
For instance, We Were Liars takes place on a private island, this gives the story a sort of eerie feel. Rites of Passage takes place at a military academy, so you can imagine things are going to be intense there. Finally, I’ll Meet You There has one of my favorite settings, a rural type area in California. All of these stories use their settings to their biggest potential.
Writing is an essential part of fantastic stories. A story can have a good plot, but if the writing isn’t well done or extraordinary, it can bring it down. I love unique writing styles, one of my favorites is non-linear. I love flashbacks and if they’re done right, they can make a story really great.
In We Were Liars, Lockhart weaves the story together through flashback type segments, present day and fairytales. Intertwining fairytales into the main story was such a genius move and so beautifully done. These fairytales caused me to love We Were Liars more because it was so unique.
I love imagery and metaphors in stories too, so We Were Liars and The Walled City were fantastic stories in their writing style for me.
Point of view comes into play here as well. The right point of view can make all of the difference, especially when it comes to connecting with characters. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins features Katniss Everdeen and it’s told in first person. Due to it being told in first person, I found it easy to connect with her and sympathize about her situation.
A fantastic story is one that has something I can take away from it or really make me think. Every Day and Free to Fall both did this for me as I found them really thought provoking.
Emotional feelings definitely help a book become fantastic for me, whether they’re anger, sadness, happiness, swooning, that’s a feeling, right? 😉 I love almost any book that makes me feel really strongly regardless of the feeling itself.
Relatable characters also do this for me, but it can also be just small quotes that were said. One small quote can change books from being “okay” to being “great” for me.