“Remember: plot is what happens TO the characters; story is what happens AS A RESULT of the characters.”
Speaking of fiction here… we’ve all read good books; ones that held our attention, that entertained and engaged, but I’d ask you to pause for a second and think about those novels that went a step beyond “good book.” What about the stories that captivated us? The ones we couldn’t put down, that if we had to for horridly domestic reasons like work or sleep, we couldn’t wait to get back to. The books that we didn’t want to end, and when we did finish them there was this pang, this longing for the story to continue somehow. We were transported, moved, and left… changed.
What is that magic ingredient, or combination of ingredients? Is it themes like sacrifice, bravery, justice? A character’s struggles and triumphs? Insight’s into the poignancy and preciousness of human life? Is it exceptional prose, humor, world-building a la Gormenghastor Perdido Street Station?
Perhaps it was something we read in childhood. I read and appreciated Tolkien, and I’m a serious fan of the films, but I have vivid memories of Lloyd Alexander’s The Chronicles of Prydain I remember being astonished at Bernard Cornwell’s “Warlord Trilogy” re-telling of Arthur, and I can’t tell you how many copies of Steven Pressfield’s “Gates of Fire” I’ve purchased and given away.
I could name others, but I’m interested in your opinions. Which books came alive for you, and why?
And if you write, what can you do to lift your work to that level?