What I Like in a Good Book – the A to Z

Facebook – General

What I like most about a good book:-

A = Action to keep me gripped.

B = Backstory that intrigues (and in series novels develops too. See Vimes in the Discworld books for a great example of this).

C = Characters I want to root for or boo heartily. Either is a great reaction to generate!

D = Dialogue that moves the story on, makes me want to turn the page to find out more.

E = Elegant writing. The story flows and the pace varies almost without the reader noticing. That really is elegant (and very good) writing.

F = Fun (even if the story is crime/horror/what have you). There must be a sense the writer had fun in coming up with their world/characters. It does show in the writing. (Nothing must feel forced. It’s a huge turn-off).

G = Genre. The story delivers on its genre. There’s got to be a “good” crime in a crime story, a “decent” horror in a horror tale and so on.

So more on what I like from a good book:-

H = Humour to be appropriate to the story. I prefer subtle humour in fiction rather than outright slapstick (which I think works better in film/TV).

I = Imagery and Impact. A good book will be strong on both counts.

J = Justification – every character should have good reasons for acting the way they are, whether they’re heroes or villains. The justification doesn’t have to be something I agree with but does have to make sense and be understandable.

K = Killer Lines. The ones that make you read them again because they hit you between the eyes. Wodehouse was the master of these. They can be humorous but often a killer line is that turning point in the story where everything changes and is memorable for that reason.

L = Light shining. A good book will show you something of the human condition as if it was shining a light on it. For example, from The Lord of the Rings, the light shining there is that anyone can be a hero if they’re made of the right stuff, including hobbits.

M = Mayhem. To be resolved and bring the story to a satisfying conclusion. There has to be conflict for a story to work. A good book will show the mayhem arising from that conflict and add to the drama. There has to be a “must find out what happens” feeling.

N = Narrative should have plenty of pace, fill in gaps where needed or at least give readers enough clues for them to be able to fill in gaps where needed, and drive the story on to its conclusion.

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The next part of my “what I like to find from a good book” series includes one rather awkward letter, but here goes!

O = Original. While there may be only seven basic plots, I like to see original takes on them! Your interpretation of a revenge theme, say, will be different from mine (while having elements in common). I like to see what the author has to bring to the table here.

P = Prose that flows. No “boring bits”. Prose that makes you want to keep turning the page. I love coming across lines that, intentionally, make me laugh or are so descriptive, the images they conjure up take me right into the world of that story.

Q = Quirky. Not so awkward after all. I love, and write, quirky fiction. I see it as a fiction which injects fresh air into stories in general. I don’t mind if it is the characters that are quirky or the story setting (and usually it is both). These stories often cross boundaries. Who ever would have thought stories with rabbits as the characters would ever take off? Watership Down might, if you like, have a “quirky approach” but the drama of survival (or not) is still there and is what drives the story.

R = Resonance. The characters need to resonate with me. There has to be something about them I can understand or get behind. The story itself must resonate in the same way. A good story is memorable (and stands up to repeated re-readings).

S = Situation. Again this should be identifiable whether the story is set in Southampton or on some galaxy far, far away. It can be a situation we’d be glad never to face or one we have had to deal with countless times but it must catch and hold attention.

T = Tension. There’s no story without conflict. The tension must ratchet up throughout the book until its resolution. It shouldn’t be exaggerated (readers see through that very quickly). The way it builds up should make sense too.

NB Will finish series off in next post.  X and Z should prove to be an interesting challenge!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I love the fact flash fiction has so many sub-categories within it.

I write 100-word stories a lot, which are also known as drabbles (making me a flasher and a drabbler but never mind. My 50-word colleagues have it worse – they write dribbles. A flashing dribbler… hmm, not a great image! Whoever came up with these terms… why? Answers on a postcard etc!).

There’s nothing to stop you thinking you’ll write 100 words but find it really works best as a 500-worder or a 50-word one. It’s always better to play to the story’s strength so if you can’t submit it for a 100-word challenge because the tale really does have to be longer than that, write it as a longer piece and then find another market for it. They are out there!

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Another thing you can do with flash fiction is use it as a warm up writing exercise. There’s also nothing to stop you taking those pieces, editing them, submitting them.

It could also make an end of day close down exercise and again nothing to stop you getting the story out there later on. My own view is that every author should have a go at flash fiction as it develops your editorial skills.

And if you’re having one of those days, where you know you’re only going to have so long at your writing desk, drafting some flash fiction sounds particularly good as it is a complete form in and of itself.

Good luck!

And for my acrostic flash story tonight, I’ll have a go with the word acrostic itself. Well, why not?


Allison stumbled across the body on her way home from Slimming World.
Cantankerous as ever, she thought, recognizing the chap she’d walked into.
Really had no consideration for anyone else, even in death, typical of him to still be in the way.
Oh my… I guess I’d better call the cops.
Should’ve gone home the other way tonight.
Trouble falls into my lap at times, she thought.
Instinct made her look around to see a ghoulish figure behind her.
Crammed her fist into the figure’s stomach and bashed it over the head with her bag; nothing but nothing was getting in the way of Allison and her dinner!

Allison Symes – 26th March 2019

Before anyone asks, yes, this is fictional and I did have my dinner!















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