My Taste: A Periodic List

So, for all intents and purposes, this is a list of elements that make a book one that I would love to read at this particular phase in my life. It is the type of book I’m attempting to write. So if you are like me, and enjoy young adult type fiction with the following elements, then you’re my target audience. If not, we may relate on some other level or stage of life, so maybe I’ll catch you later.

The List (for now)

Mystery: Curiosity-is-peaked type of book. It leaves you guessing how it’ll play out. Then when it begins to resolve, you may have had an idea of how it would end, but then you are blown away (I love the Mrs. Pollifax books by Dorothy Gilman).

Suspense: The ‘just one more page’ syndrome that leaves you up, if you aren't careful, until 2 am reading the last page. This was my thought at a certain point in Only the Good Spy Young: ‘Noooo, he’s going to blow himself up so the Circle can’t have him!’ (Yes, I actually forced myself to turn off my Kindle at that moment in the book because it was 2 am, and I had a 7 am wake-up call from my kids.)

Interesting, developed characters: I like to know things about the characters from the things they experience. I like to see them encounter challenges. Somewhere I read once said the litmus test for an essential character is: do they have fears? do they have motivations? Do they have goals? I tend to think that this is good, but they need obstacles to those elements. Put your character through something hard and see what they do. It might surprise you…ahem, okay, so I strayed a little bit from what I like about a book to writing characters. But basically, I like a well-developed character, (and here I go again, commenting on writing...) but I struggle writing developed characters…why? because my life view is formed by ONE character: me. So it is hard to metaphorically "get inside their heads" and see what motivates them. I want to experience a real character: one that I would want to meet on the street…or be glad I won't ever meet on the street.

A twisting, engaging storyline: I like to go along with the character on an unbelievably exciting journey to some end. The journey isn’t predictable, isn’t told up front, has surprises along the way (minimal flashbacks), has twists and turns that you didn't expect, and gets resolved at the end.

Romance: When I say romance, I’m not saying steamy scenes where immoral and offensive lust is played out in detail & slapped with the romance label. When I say romance, I say, in the words of one of my good friends, I like the “first blush of romance” books as well as those who show true, lasting love. I love to see the connections between men and women because I believe that romance is an essence of life. It is important because the relationship of a man and woman in the family is the bedrock of our society. Men and women are completely different in how they view one another. But in their very differences, they complement and can uplift one another. A relationship guarded by restraint, respect, and true love (the kind of love that endures 2 am wake-up calls from a sick child or late nights at the office, the kind I think of every time I hear Just Another Day in Paradise by Phil Vasser) is beautiful and provides the greatest happiness in this life. The counterfeit of this love brings the greatest misery and hardship. True love is something beautiful. It is essential. I like to see the proper manifestation or beginning of this love (aka clean romance) hailed in books. It’s a great and integral part of the happy life. I think that is one of the reasons why I like clean regency romance. (for example, Edenbrooke or Blackmoore by Julianne Donaldson)

Morally Sound: The lines of right and wrong are there. I believe that this life is not morally relative. So I do not prefer books that say right is wrong and wrong is right. Don’t get me wrong: I love books that make you think and dig deep. I just don’t want to consume something that proclaims moral relativism.

The Message: It has one. If it is just to make you smile, love some essence of life again, or some world changing revelation of truth, whatever it be, I want to be uplifted. I want a positive message that leaves me with hope. I love a book that has an amazing, entertaining plot and story line, but at the end leaves you thinking not only about what you read but what it reveals about life, even your life.

The Detail:
Symbolism: I love books that have imagery or symbolism that compliments the plot or message of the book. For example, Charlotte Bronte’s use of windows in Jane Eyre. Whether or not imagery/symbolism was intended by the author in a book, the meaning I discover while reading or thinking about it, thrills me.
Background Description: I do not like long, drawn out descriptions of scenery or background. I like the background imagery and detail to be like basil in tomato soup. Just enough to give it flavor.
Dialogue vs Narrative: Both elements are important in a book. However, I find that I prefer dialogue driven books. The books that show through character action/interaction what the book is about, rather than telling through description. This may sound contradictory: dialogue=show, narrative=tell. I love the author who uses action/events to say something rather than just describing it.

So there you have it. Are you my target audience?

Question Your Taste: Read Into Your Favorite Book

Think about your favorite book. Why do you like it? What is it about your favorite books that make you like them? This is the question that I asked people when I began this book-writing adventure. I even asked myself the question. I wanted to be sure to include those crucial elements in my book. However, I ran into several snags upon my attempt to answer that question. For one, the obvious: EVERYONE is different and has different tastes. You can't possibly please everyone's tastes. Okay, well then, I will narrow my questioning field to my target audience. Young adults, or adults like myself. Okay, still too broad of a guide, but a good start. However, this interesting fact entered my mind: even if I narrow that audience to myself alone, it is hard to pinpoint exactly what I like because I like different types of books for different reasons.

Enter extremely long side note/semi-rant here: I've talked with several people who have a pet peeve about the rating system on Goodreads. I’d have to agree with them. For example, it is strange to contemplate that The Very Hungry Caterpillar has the same rating as War and Peace. They both may deserve the high ratings, but they are not on the same plane. The rating system seems to put them there. The reason you pick up a book will reflect your rating. Not all books have the same function and the reason you read should technically become the standard for your rating...not some collectively embraced rating system that puts a loved children's book on the same star as a 1300+ page historical masterpiece novel. It is these two approaches (subjective versus collective standard) that wage a war in my mind when I attempt to rate and review a book on Goodreads. But Goodreads is good nonetheless if you have an idea of the tastes of the person who is rating (...and the review feature is there, so my argument may be a moot point).

So, I decided to jump into the question: what are some reasons I read? To be informed, to be educated, to have a life-changing/heart-lifting lesson, to be inspired, to be entertained, to be warned, etc. In all honesty, the reason I pick up a book has everything to do with in which stage of life I am. Two of the books I devoured and loved in college were The Basic Writings of John Stuart Mill (by John Stuart Mill) and Modern Literary Theory (by Rice and Waugh). Both were required reading for polar opposite classes (Media Law & Ethics versus Theater Studies, respectively). Strangely, I found they complemented each other in expanding my ability to think, stretch, and blow my mind wider at each read and juxtaposition. I love books that make me think. And make me think hard. The ones that combine the intellectual with basic truth, then leave you sitting back in your chair, mind expanding with original thought.

However, that type of book is not my first book of choice at this phase in my life. With the constant demands for my attention all day long as a homemaker and mother, at the end of the day, I love to curl up with a good, wholesome, engaging, entertaining story. One that shows a side to life that is happy, lifts one up, and makes one happy. I just read the fourth book in the Gallagher Girls series. Have you read them yet? They are awesome. I’d say they have nearly all of the elements that make me like a book (remember: that’s the me speaking at this stage in my life).

Stay tuned for my next post, where I will list the elements that make a book one that I love to read (and the type I'm attempting to write). In the mean time, What are the elements that make a book one you love?

Life-Changing Moments

I reread the first rough chapter of my book the other day. I found a piece of back story that does not have direct impact on moving forward the story of the book. I'll probably be cutting it out or reworking how the information is given.

We've all had those moments in life that won't leave our mind because of the impression they made that impacted or changed our life forever. This was one of those moments for my main character Prim (quoting from a very rough manuscript):

"I glanced out at Medadrom Road, our carriage bumping across the small bridge that marked the outskirts of Medaden City. Memories flooded my mind. It was at this bridge that I stood when High King Zaccheus Vertus paid a visit during the 1500th festival anniversary celebrating Medad’s Founding. That was the only time in my life that the High King had visited our northernmost kingdom. It left a vivid, indelible impression upon my seven-year old mind. The High King Zaccheus’ entourage guarded by a company of fierce soldiers of the infamous and deadly High Gallion Guard paraded down Medadrom Road where throngs of our people pressed in to get a once-in-a-life-time glimpse of this man of power. Being small and skinny, I squeezed myself through the people to the front beside the road. I stood with my head high as his ornately carved chariot carriage pulled by four impeccably groomed white horses came into view. He had a ruby-bedecked red robe, a simple coronet on his dark brown hair, and gray just beginning to appear in his beard. He was magnificent. His gaze which had been fixed toward Galadrom palace suddenly shifted down at the individuals struggling to get a look at him. His eyes locked on mine for a moment, revealing a kindness and a depth of person that I’d never before or haven’t since experienced. Within that brief moment I glimpsed wisdom beyond my understanding that both commanded my respect and instilled a confidence in myself to accomplish whatever challenge I came up against. No matter what people said about him to the contrary (and it seemed I’d been hearing more of contrary rumors recently), I knew that this was a wise man and one to be trusted and revered. He didn’t just wear the title; it was who he was to the core: the High King, Protector of All Good and Right in Vertus."

In your own life, have you written down those life-changing moments?