Writerly Rant #7
The Ultimate Question
What make a good story or book for that matter? Everyone you meet will have a different answer depending on what genre they prefer, which authors they follow, and how they have lived their life.
I have found the answer. Truly.
There is one element present in every good book ever written or being written. It is an intrinsic part of the human race that speaks to our hearts in ways nothing else ever will.
From the wealthiest sot to the poorest beggar, we live and die by this one fundamental belief. No, it’s not love – that is the response of a romantic. It is not strength in all its complex manifestations and ties back to the notion of survival of the fittest. But you would be getting closer to the answer since this element is at the core of every emotion.
Even hate and anger; for you can’t have either without first admitting to being susceptible to this very primary emotion.
When reading a book it’s easy to define moments that clarify or crystallize ideas for us and we readily say what we liked best about it. But poor writing skills and flawed content aside, a well-written book in any genre will can leave us wanting. If you’ve ever grappled with trying to explain why a book didn’t resonate with you, when on the surface it was an ideal choice – ask yourself one question:
Was hope a believable and viable element?
What draws readers into a character? The belief in and the sharing of his hopes and dreams. When all hope is lost and the world is naught but a miserable place the one thing that give us, the human race, strength is the tiniest glimmer of hope. Even being dropping into the depths of despair, either as a character or reader, means there was once hope… and if it was there once, it may return again. This is that critical hinge in writing – how to draw in the reader to the emotion and truth of the story – take away and then give them hope when they least expect it.
I used to agree with child psychologist, Bruno Bettleheim’s, assessment that children’s stories needed to have happy endings in order to produce well-rounded and well-adjusted adults. That is, after all, why Disney Studios, among others, have altered Grimm’s Fairy Tales and other writings of a similar, dark, nature. But even those dark tales, initially developed for adults, were adopted by children because of the what-if factor. What if I got to do it differently?
It all comes back to hope.
A good book if far from filled with the notion. In fact, if not properly balanced out, hope could just as easily ruin a book as make it good. However, I challenge you to return to a book you know you should have liked but didn’t and put it to the test – Were there believable elements of hope?
You might just surprise yourself.