When do you know you’ve found a good author?

May 14, 2012 at 5:05 pm | Posted in Reading, Writing | 11 Comments
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Like many writers, I love to read books. I have done since I was a small child. I have found authors with writing skills at many levels, from poor to mediocre and right through to wonderful.

I have searched for as many books by my favourite authors as I can and wish there were more – and I have wondered why many other books were ever published at all.

So, what makes an author a favourite? For me, it is someone who gets me so involved in the story and characters that I can’t stop turning the pages, and yet not want it to end either.

But how can one author get me so involved while there are so many who don’t, and lots who even turn me right off?

I don’t think it is just the plot or story line of the book, though that needs to be engaging.

I don’t think it is just the characters or setting, though I want them to be believable.

I don’t think it is just the grammar or sentence construction either, though they can make a story much better – or much worse.

No, it is none of these things and yet all of them. But it is something else as well.

It is writing that makes you feel you are there, that you see the place where the action happens, that you identify with the characters and their responses; that you are inside the story, lost in it, and you want to stay there.

It is writing that flows so well that the writer makes an emotional connection with the reader, so much so that you don’t think of it as a story but as something you are experiencing as you read.

It is when, remembering the story long after, you see it more as an experience you have had, and not as a book you have read.

That’s when you know you have found, not just a good author, but a really talented author.

© Linda Visman

14th May 2012

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11 Comments »

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  1. My experience with “great books” is usually initially bad. In fact my definition of a great book would be one that I couldn’t get into at first, but that left me with a need to go back to it. I think great literature has a sense of the uncanny about it which makes it not immediately accessible. As for great authors: I think all great writers have written mediocre works as well as the gems they are famous for. Its the books that are great, not the authors.

    • Hi Paul, thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment.
      Yes, I understand where you are coming from with your ‘great books’ rather than great authors. Great writers have written mediocre books, but they have also written great books. That means they are capable of writing other great books.
      What I am focusing on here is when you know you’ve found an author who has done all those things that a good author does in at least one book. That’s when you look for more of his/her work.
      The great books, such as ‘Crime and Punishment’ or many of Charles Dickens’ works, may sometimes be hard to get into, but can be enormously satisfying and inspiring once you are well into them.
      But the good author doesn’t have to be writing great literature as it is usually defined. I think that, if a book is good enough to really draw you in, to make you identify with and remember the world and the characters about which it is written. and if it makes you think more deeply about some aspect of life and the human condition, then it can be a great book.
      What do you think?

      • Yes, Linda, I agree. But my point is that the “greatness” of a great book is not usually immediately apparent to a reader. Most of my favourite great books were works that I didn’t like the first time I read them. They were perhaps too slow to unravel their plot, or maybe there was no apparent plot, or perhaps it seemed too wordy or I didn’t actually like the voice of the narration… but something was left behind that urged me to return to the book and try again. Sometimes I haven’t actually appreciated the tremendous greatness of a book until I read it, or tried to read it, the third, fourth or fifth time. Books like “The Brothers Karamazov,” Thomas Mann’s “Doctor Faustus”, Gogol’s “Dead Souls” or even Emily Bronte’s “Wuthering Heights,” have all been experiences like this for me.
        Most of the books that have been a good read for me on the first approach, books that I haven’t been able to put down, have been disappointing when I’ve returned to them for a second look.

  2. What a great piece. I agree with you, and also think that by perfecting the things you mentioned before, you can vastly improve your chances of writing in that effortless way that draws a reader in and doesn’t let them go. I also think that different writers achieve that with different readers. If you have been honing your chops on the classics, then the majority of YA is not going to feel very life-changing to you, even if it has been made into a block buster movie. If you don’t have a college degree, didn’t take any AP English courses in school, and didn’t come from a reading family, than books written in simple language, with common themes, and wonderful endings (something like Nicholas Sparks) can be very satisfying. Foe me, I love the darkness of Cormac McCarthy’s words, and the brilliance of Jhumpa Lahiri’s insight into the most delicate of human emotions. And it’s funny, I write like neither of them!

    I wonder where my writing would fall on your grading scale?

    I look forward to reading more.

    • Hi Daniel.
      Thanks for calling in and checking out my blog. I’ve checked out yours too, and enjoyed your posts. I hope you will be able to write regular entries.
      I loved Cormac McCarthy’s ‘The Road’, but I haven’t read anything else by him yet. I don’t write like any of my favourite authors either but then, my novel is quite different to most of what I read.

  3. Great post – I particularly liked your last sentence: “It is when, remembering the story long after, you see it more as an experience you have had, and not as a book you have read.”

    The only thing I don’t like about it is that you place a great burden on us authors to live up to!

    • Thanks for your comment Pete. It is a burden we authors must try to carry – some do it so easily!

  4. I’m with Pete and the line he quoted. Thank you for a wonderful essay.
    Debbie

  5. […] I have posted several times about reading and writing, and those posts have also attracted lots of views and some comments. Perhaps the most popular was When do you know when you’ve found a good author? […]

  6. I agree with you, Linda. It’s the sense of ‘being there’.


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