Wednesday, December 17, 2008

"So what's the answer?"

Over on Jack Getze's blog, his main character Austin Carr is debating POV, and the discussion leaned toward the magic-bullet combination that makes a reader forgive the problems a story may have.

Is it Story?

Is it Craft?

Is it Voice?

Or is it D) some variegated combination of all the above, plus more? Now granted, an agent can come and tell us what makes them offer representation, and I'd welcome it. [I'd welcome the offer too, but anyway (grin) ]

I want to know what does it for readers (writers also read, so you guys chime in too). If you're reading a book where the craft is lacking, or the story drags, or the voice is dry, what keeps you in it? What captures you?

I know any one of these things can make you want to toss the book through a wall if it's REALLY poorly done, but what has to be done well enough to help you gloss over the gaffes?


Jeff Shelby said...

This is completely unrelated, but Austin Carr could fill it up back in the day.

jnantz said...

See, me being an NC State fan, I immediately thought you meant Kenny Carr (who could also kick some serious ass on the court). Ah well...

Zoƫ Sharp said...

Hi Jake

For me, I pick up a book by an author I'm not familiar with, and it's the precis of the story that either grabs me or doesn't. The book jacket copy, by its nature, showcases the highlights of the book, like a film trailer before the main event in a cinema. You either turn to the person with you and say, "Oh, yeah, we have GOT to come and see that as soon as it's out!" Or you go, "We-ell, maybe when it comes out on DVD..." Or you're simply not interested.

After that, it's the voice, every time. I know by the time I'm halfway down the first page if I like the sound of the writer's voice or not. And if I'm going to want to listen to that voice for an entire book.

And after that comes everything else. Character first, then how well the story hangs together, etc.

I know people will throw their hands up in horror that I haven't listed Character as being the most important aspect overall, but until you've got to the end of the book - or at least a good chunk into it - you don't know if you really like the character(s). And the only way you're going to give it a chance is if the idea and the writing style grabs your interest.

Just my two-penny worth ;-]

jnantz said...

Thanks for stopping by! I totally understand what you're saying. A lot of the agents' blogs I read (and have listed on my blogroll) say much the same thing. I can specifically remember reading similar comments by Janet Reid of FinePrint and by Jessica Faust of BookEnds. Voice has to be first once you get to the writing, and the 'hook' in the jacket copy (or query for them) is what gets you to the writing in the first place.

I hope my characters stand up like you say, but even if they don't, if my writing voice is okay, then I can always tell different stories with better characters (I hope)!