Wonderology

A couple of days ago, I came home from the One Year Adventure Novel Summer Workshop. I’ve been to four OYAN workshops (two summer, two winter), and each one of them has been fascinating, wonderful, eye-opening, and beautiful in their own unique ways. And yet, this past week impacted me on an entirely different level. A more personal, more intricate level. Despite being surrounded by over two-hundred teens and college students, I felt like this week was meant for me.

 

The theme of the workshop was Wonderology, which is indeed what it sounds like: the study of wonder. What does it mean to wonder?

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The word “wonder” is filled with such a majestic simplicity.  It literally means:

 

1. n. A feeling of surprise mingled with admiration, caused by something beautiful, unexpected, unfamiliar, or inexplicable.

2. v. To desire or be curious to know something.

3. v. To feel admiration and amazement, marvel.

 

This type of awe, amazement, desire…wonder is continually becoming more and more scarce in our daily lives. After all, we’re adults now, and it’s time to start thinking about more serious things, like what job we want, who to get married to, where to live, what to think, what to do, how to act. And amidst all of that, the simplistic act of wondering is too often lost.

 

So why don’t we wonder anymore? Why does “growing up” mean sacrificing the “what if” questions that make you want to explore the world? I think it’s because we’re afraid. I mean, we’re adults, right? Wondering and all that…it’s for kids. And what if people think I’m stupid for creating an alternate dimension fairy world inside of a BB at a church potluck? As adults, we don’t want to ruin our image by wondering.

 

To be honest, this is something I never quite understood myself. When people ask weird questions like, “So what if fairies lived in this BB and it’s actually another world?” they automatically become five times more intriguing to me. What about wondering “ruins” our image as an adult? As the pastor at my church pointed out this past Sunday, we are blessed by discoveries and knowledge today because people wondered. Because CS Lewis wondered, we have Narnia. Because Galileo wondered, we have the telescope. If nobody ever wondered, where would we be?

 

I think that sometimes, adults fear wonder because it is a new frontier; an unknown road; a path into the void. We tend to worry, “Oh no, what if I get ridiculed for this? Nobody’s ever done this before, so what if it doesn’t work? What if nobody likes it? What if nobody likes me?” This is part of what makes wonder so majestic. It’s a risk. It’s calling from that undiscovered realm, “Be brave! Seek…dream…take that step out of your comfort zone.” And sometimes people will think you’re crazy. They’ll laugh. They might mock you. Wonder—and acting upon it is not for cowards.

 

The thing that most impacted me over the past week was seeing a group of not children, but teenagers and adults come together to wonder. It inspired me and gave me hope that there are still people who have that spark; that desire.

 

I’ve heard it said, “Oh, well, it’s nice to wonder and all, but that’s for artists.” Naturally, those quirky people who are “different” than everybody else. Well, let me tell you a secret….YOU are a quirky person. Even if you’re not an artist, or someone you consider “creative”, you’re human. And humans wonder. It’s in our very nature to ask “what if?” And for those of you who are Christians, as children of God, we are called to wonder. To be in awe of Him and the things He has made. God desires for us to wonder, and He made us with that desire as well, if we don’t suppress it because, “Hey, we’re adults now!” Maybe so, but God wants us to come to Him “as little children.” With wonder.

 

Yesterday, I spoke to my church about wonderology and worship, and how I believe those two things go hand in hand. As a writer, one would think I’d be all about songs with words during worship, right? But I’m not. I know it might be a bit of a shocker to people who are used to traditional worship, but when I really desire to seek after and find God, I turn on soundtracks. Ahem. Yes, soundtracks. Before you laugh or think, “Man, she’s weird” (though you may have already done that), I’ve discovered that the nature of soundtracks invoke a sense of wonder in me. The great, thematic stuff, but especially the delicate, gentle, swirling pieces. (This is where I make my plug for the How to Train Your Dragon soundtrack.) They create the perfect setting to ponder; to not narrow the focus of your mind, but to let it wander. They communicate something that is deeper than mere words, and that is the essence of wonder.

 

So today, I want to challenge everyone who reads this post to think about one thing that you wonder about. Don’t just invent something, but really actually think about it. Ponder for a few minutes. (Maybe listen to soundtracks.) When life happens, it’s easy to forget to wonder. We push it aside for more urgent matters, like the house, the job, the car, what to feed the kids for dinner. It’s easy to wonder when the spark is fresh, but it’s important to keep it alive. So I’m asking you right now…

 

What do you wonder?

 

Favorites from the Hobbit: June, 2014

Hey, all! Seeing as how I am about to take a week off from the blogging routine in order to make my yearly pilgrimage to Olathe, KS for the One Year Adventure Novel’s Summer Workshop, I decided I’d leave you all with a few links to some of my favorite blog posts that I read this month. I found these articles very interesting and helpful to my own journey as a writer, and I hope they benefit you as well.

 

Movie-lovers and book-lovers are often classified in completely different categories. But are the structures of a novels and screenplays really much different? What are some things novelists can learn from screenwriters?

 

Your protagonist and your antagonist generally represent two polar opposites. They think differently; they act differently; they view the world differently. But is there ever a good time to have your hero and villain to agree on something? My friend and fellow novelist, blogger, and OYAN alumni, Braden Russell writes a compelling article on why your antagonist and protagonist should agree on something.

 

Many writers, myself included, struggle at times with receiving criticism of our work. Though it’s short, this post by novelist, Jill Williamson from Go Teen Writers is a good reminder and encouragement.

 

It is often difficult to execute well-written transitions in a novel. I’ll be honest, I struggle with this at times, as much as anybody. Jill Williamson writes another very good post about how to show transitions of time in your novel.

 

There are two halves to any story, just like there are two halves to any character: the internal and the external conflicts. It’s easy enough to create mere circumstances that effect your character’s arc (the internal conflicts), but are there ways that villain himself can play a key role in the effects? How might your antagonist affect the character arc in your novel?

 

It is a fault of many authors to create characters that are a little bit too perfect to be human. I’m sure we’ve all slipped into that trap by accident a few times. On the other hand, you don’t want a character so flawed that he’s always making stupid mistakes. How’s that supposed to be interesting? In another fabulous post, Braden talks about when it’s okay to have a smart character do dumb things.

 

 

And there you are, my friends; a few excerpts from the blog roll of Dreaming Hobbit. I wish you all a pleasant week filled with sunshine and fuzzy kitten pictures. Happy writing, everyone!

How to Train Your Dragon 2 [A Dreaming Hobbit Review]

**WARNING**

Contains spoilers. Continue at your own risk.

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Yesterday afternoon, my family and I went to see the new movie How to Train Your Dragon 2. Honestly, though I love the first movie, I didn’t have very high expectations for the second one. Not many sequels can hold their own against the originals, in my book. I would say that this movie was no exception, but it wasn’t as bad as I was expecting. However, it still wasn’t really an exception. (Sorry folks, the first one was still better.)

Characters:

For the most part, they did a good job with the consistency of the characters. Hiccup was still Hiccup, Stoik was still Stoik, and Gobber was…well, you get the point. Still missing his beautiful hand and his beautiful foot. However, I couldn’t help but notice the shallowness of many of the supporting characters (Snotlout, Ruff and Tuff, Fishlegs, etc.). Though they maintained their personalities, they seemed far less developed than the main characters; even more so than in the first movie.

Hiccup

As I said, Hiccup didn’t really change much. He was still Hiccup, though older and more mature. He’s learned lessons from the first movie, but he’s still trying to figure out who he is and take his place in the world. His internal journey (character arc) showed, but not quite as much as it did in the first movie. His father is after him to become the chief of Berk, and, as usual, Hiccup is reluctant to have that kind of popularity. And he feels unworthy of the responsibility, thinking he will never make as good a chief as his father. The character arc he goes through consists of him coming to the realization that he will never be the chief his father was, because he is not his father. In the end, just as with the first movie, it turns out that all they needed was a little more of “this.”

Draco Bloodfist

Draco, the villain of the story, is a dark, evil, hulk of a man. He’s made it his life’s work to capture dragons and build an army of them. He’s trying very hard to be evil, and yet, one of my biggest issues with the movie was that I couldn’t see much (if any) motivation for Draco’s evilness. Pretty much, what I gathered was, “A dragon bit off my arm. I hate dragons. So I’m going to use them to conquer the world!” In my opinion, Draco seemed to be more of a plot device villain than anything, in existence merely for the sake of filling the position of “bad guy.”

Plot:

Part of what made this movie better than I was originally expecting was the way that the sequel tied to the first movie, and even filled in some of the gaps from Hiccup’s, and also Stoik’s past. It explained a lot of why they are the way that they are, despite coming off as a bit of an info-dump in places. It didn’t feel nearly as contrived as many sequels do when they’re attempting to tie up loose ends. For the most part, it made sense.

Near the end of the movie, there were also a few very well-placed, well-executed unexpected moments. Killing Stoik was one, but more so, the fact that they had Toothless kill him under the influence of Draco’s Alpha dragon. Having Toothless turn on Hiccup was a bit of a blow. (Okay, a lot of one, because Toothless is my favorite.) I felt as though the movie was seriously lacking emotion up until that moment. But when Hiccup shoves Toothless away and screams, “No, get out of here! Go away!” I was wanting to yell, “NO HE DIDN’T MEAN IT!” That scene, because it was unexpected, had some great tension. Unfortunately, the emotional tightness didn’t last very long.

One of the things that was the most disappointing to me was the dialogue. The first movie had amazing exchanges, and, while it was light and funny, it felt real. More than half of the dialogue in the second movie was way under-par to the first one in that respect. It felt forced and dry after the witty, flowing, effortless stuff of the original.

As I mentioned, the villain appeared to have a serious lack of motivation. Overall, the plot was way too compact. I felt like they had tried to cram way too much into the two hours of the movie, squeezing out some important details. In that sense, it fell into the trap that 90% of sequels do: overboard action and grandiose exploits, and not enough of the simplicity and plain old good storytelling that made the original great. One of the areas where this was most prevalent was Hiccup’s reunion with his mother, Valka. He had a little bit of a shock, but in my opinion, he came to the point of “Oh, you’re my mom. That’s awesome. Okay, cool!” too quickly; definitely a casualty of a compact plotline. (Also, I can’t get over that they put such a major spoiler into the trailer! What. Why?!)

Another result of the compact plot was a blow to the fight scenes. In the first movie, the “wow factor” of the massive dragon coming out of the mountain was just that: a wow factor. As the audience, we’re sitting there thinking, “Holy cow! How are they going to beat this thing?!” But in the sequel, they blow out the “wow factor” so much that it cheapens the effect. There was a bit of the initial “wow” moment when we first glimpse the Alpha in Valka’s lair, but eventually, the big Alpha dragons are no longer as amazing, because they became overused. In my opinion, the fight scenes took a big knock in the second movie. The dragons changed hands too quickly, I thought, because clearly, it was more about the action than the story. The sacrifice of a well-woven story in order to gain more action scenes and pack in a 10,000 pound load of “wow” never strikes me as a good trade.

Overall, while the movie was entertaining, and I’d probably watch it again (because Toothless <3), my opinion is that it didn’t really stand up to the first one story-wise.

Why Is Bad Fiction So Popular?

I enjoyed a wonderful shopping trip with one of my very good friends today. We’re both literature junkies, and so naturally, our conversation flowed towards books, and the question arose: Why is badly written (and sometimes just outright horrible) fiction so popular?

Have you ever read a book and thought to yourself, How the heck did this get published?! We probably all have at one point or another. Because let’s face it, in a lot of areas, the quality of literature is taking a steep decline in this culture.

As we were talking, my friend mentioned how a lot of modern YA fiction is “run of the mill.” It looks like it’s all been cranked out of the same machine, and a lot of times, it shows by the shallow, unrefined prose. This sometimes even slips into good stories. I’ve read plenty of decent (and sometimes even brilliant) plot-lines that were executed in, to be honest, awful prose that looked like the author was just slapping it out on the page. It read like a first draft. And then there are those stories that are just bad all around, and we wonder how these things get published and marketed.

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I’m going to use the Twilight series as an example. (Apologies to anyone who happens to like it.) Generally, (at least among my circles), this series is hardly considered a work of art. In fact, many people think of it as the opposite. And yet it appeals to so many teenage girls. Why? I’ve wondered that for a long time, and today, my friend said something that really turned on a light bulb for me. Having read the books as a little girl, she said she was drawn into them as much as anyone, despite the bad quality of writing, and overall mediocrity. It wasn’t until much later that she realized why: the heroine, Bella, meets the male lead, Edward, who, despite being a 900-some-year-old sparkling, blood-sucking creature, acts like a gentleman.

A gentleman.

Could this be why so many girls find so much satisfaction in Twilight? Because the vampire is a gentleman? If you stop and think about it, it suddenly makes sense. Despite the bad prose and such, they enjoy this series. But why?

My friend then went on to point out the severe lack of true gentlemen in today’s culture. Perhaps the reason why so many teenage girls are in the “Twilight Fandom” is because they don’t see enough of real life gentlemen. And yet, they starve for it so much that they turn to fiction. Even bad fiction.

I’ve noticed this trend in other YA novels as well: the perfect man. Even if the prose is a downright atrocity, and the storyline is a mess (which isn’t to say that all YA fiction is like that), it’s all made up for by the fact that whoever the “main man” is, happens to be a gentleman. This seems to be where the main appeal for “bad fiction” comes from. It gets published, why? Because the public starves for it. But they don’t starve for badly written stories. They starve for the qualities found in those stories. Qualities that are so widely missing from our culture that people think they can only be found within the pages of a book.

I find it sad that qualities like gentlemanliness have been in large part, reduced to fiction. And not just qualities that men should possess, but women as well. Qualities like heroism, courage, selflessness, loyalty, and sacrificial love that makes relationships actually last. Somehow, it’s popular to read about those things, but it’s not so popular to actually do them. And if these things are so fulfilling to read about, how much more fulfilling would it be if that was life?

It’s ponderings like this that inspire me to write not only fiction where these qualities exist, but to write it well. Write it with passion. With feeling. With honesty. To portray a deeper level of humanity—a depth that, somewhere inside, we all desire. We all seek after it.

And not just to write it; to live it.

4 Signs of a Weak Villain

I’m going to come out and say it: writing villains is not my strong-suit. But that doesn’t stop me from recognizing a weak villain when I see one. Up until now, I’ve used several posts to discuss the importance of character development—specifically in your main character. If your protagonist is strong, and well-developed, you are well on your way to having the makings of a good story.

But you’re not there yet.

As I mentioned in my post on what I look for in a good story, the best stories tend to be character-based, in my opinion. But when I say character-based, I am not talking strictly about your protagonist. They may be the main character, but they’re not the only character. The flip side to every compelling good guy is a compelling bad guy. If you have a strong hero, and a weak villain, it’s going to show by creating a lack of balance in your novel. Just like your readers need someone to love and root for, they need someone to fear, and to fight against. And weak villains aren’t scary.

Today, I’m going to briefly discuss four obvious signs of a weak villain.

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Letting the hero out of a situation, when he could just as easily kill him and win. This happens frequently, leaving me (and probably many other readers) wondering, “So WHY didn’t the villain just take that shot???” Because any sensible evil dude would. So why’d he let the hero escape? Remember, a strong villain has his own story goal, and the hero is in the way. So why does it make any sense for him to pass over a chance to wipe out his opposition? Good, strong villains don’t let the hero off the hook without a good reason. Maybe he needs the hero to lead him to the rebel base? Or what if he’s secretly been using the hero as a means of gathering information, and he’s not ready to kill him yet, because there’s more to learn? If your villain is going to let the hero out of a sticky situation, make sure he has a reason, and make sure we know what that reason is. Villains who don’t seem to have a good motivation behind “letting the protagonist off the hook” appear weak, and your reader won’t believe in them. At the very least, if the hero gets out of a situation unscathed, he should be second-guessing himself the whole time. Why did so-and-so skip over that chance? Because your reader is going to be wondering the same thing.

“But before I kill you…” Sigh. This one has to be one of the worst. We’ve all seen it; the “but before I kill you” info-dumps, where the villain has the hero cornered in a cell at gunpoint, and proceeds to lay out his elaborate plan before shooting them. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has read these types of scenes and cringed. Why? Because, really. What’s the point? You’re just gonna shoot him anyways, so why bother telling him your evil plot? Is it to show the reader what they should have been learning throughout the course of the story, but somehow didn’t? Just so we’re 100% clear on what failure means, the villain has to sum it up in the black moment. Strong villains shouldn’t have to give elaborate, dramatic, “But Before I Kill You” speeches. A good, strong villain will have developed a platform during the middle cycle of your novel. As the main character learns more about his scheme through trial and error (and not info dumps), and the plot begins to be revealed, the reader should have a fine grasp on what failure will mean. This is a prime example of where “show don’t tell” can be used to great advantage. By this point in the story, we shouldn’t need an info-dump about the villain’s intentions, and we certainly don’t need a nice, evil monologue.

Doing things strictly for shock-value. Have you ever read a story where the villain didn’t seem scary or threatening, but instead felt…like a flannel-graph trying really hard to be evil? And in doing so, they dish out evilness for no apparent reason. Like, perhaps he’ll kill the MC’s dog just to reinforce the fact that he’s the villain. Antagonists who do things (like killing off a character) merely for shock value, and to remind the reader of his or her evilness are not strong villains. Instead, they feel like puppets. I know because I’ve written these types of villains before. As an author, I was constantly trying to “think up ways to make so-and-so seem more evil” and for them to show their evilness. This can often be tied back to a lack of motivation on the villain’s part. If he’s resorting to killing the MC’s dog for shock-value, he could probably use a motivation boost. Villains doing things that feel pointless will feel directionless. If the villain is going to kill off a major (or minor) character, make sure he or she has a good reason for it. Strong villains should never need “shock value” to reinforce their position.

Conveniently overlooking security details. Here’s another one that we’ve all seen: villains overlooking key security details. You know, leave a palace gate unlocked, or leave a message up on their computer. And why bother erasing that sloppy trail back to the murder weapon anyway? There’s such a thing as forgetfulness. We all forget things. But think inside your villain’s shoes for a minute. Is he really that likely to “forget” to lock his palace and post guards to keep the protagonist out? In order to create a strong villain, you have to learn to think like a strong villain. Imagine yourself in his place. Villains who conveniently leave security breaches often strike me as weak and rather harebrained. Unless it’s a trap, don’t leave your gate unlocked! Also, how easy is it for a hero to walk through an unlocked door? Piece of cake. But what if he had to pick the lock? Or fight a guard? Or what if he had to search through the files on the villain’s computer, rather than walking in and finding the message he’s searching for glaring at him from the screen? The smartest villains are the strongest villains.

What are some examples of a strong, compelling villain? Leave a comment and share your thoughts.

 

A Trip to the Pool

Remember when you were six years old, and your greatest wish was to go to the swimming pool on a hot day? If you could just play in that cool, clear water, your life would be infinitely better. Now, remember how happy you were when your mom told you she would take you?

There’s just one catch. First you had to get out the door. Well, that shouldn’t be so hard, you think. Naturally, you’re dressed in your bathing suit in five seconds flat, so you’re ready. You grab your floatie-wings on the way to the door, because what other water essentials are there?

“Honey, did you get your flip flops?” And you’re thinking, Aren’t those kinda pointless? I’m going kick them off as soon as I walk through the gate anyway.  

“I’ve gotta find the sunscreen, sunglasses, the baby’s hat, stroller, oh! and my magazine. Just need to make one quick phone call…”

Your wonderful day just came to a halt. Because now you were thinking, Why does mom even need all that stuff? Magazines?! The stroller? Really? You can’t take those in the water!

 

Twenty minutes later, after your mom has loaded enough for a weekend trip, you’re finally in the car, and you allow yourself a sigh of relief. You’re finally going! You were so excited when you pulled into the parking lot, that you were out of your car-seat and at the door in less than two seconds, floati-wings on your arms. Your mom takes ten seconds longer, and you wonder how she can possibly not understand that time is of the essence here.

You burst out of the car, and are about to run down the sidewalk towards the pool, when your mom calls, “Wait a minute, honey! I need you to stay close while I change the baby.”

The baby? You mean you didn’t put her swimming suit on already!? Then she tells you to come and put on sunscreen. And you wonder why that matters at all, because aren’t you just getting ready to go and rinse it all off?

Five agonizing minutes later, the baby is in the stroller, dressed in a bathing suit that you wonder how she’s possibly going to need if she’s sitting in that cart all day, and you’re finally ready to make your way to the pool. At last. You can see the water sparkling in the sunlight when you round a bend in the sidewalk! There it is!

But when you’re halfway down the sidewalk, something even worse happens.

Your mom’s friend pulls up.

And your mom stops.

And turns around.

And begins walking BACK up the sidewalk.

And now you’re coming to the awful realization that the entire universe is against you, trying to thwart your plans. 

Life isn’t fair.

So now you’re back at the top of the hill, in the parking lot. Perhaps the sunscreen is actually doing some good now, because the sun is getting higher in the sky. It must be almost noon! And you knew that that meant it was darn close to getting dark. If your mom didn’t hurry, the moon would come up! But she’s busy taking an eternity to greet her friend.

Now, what you don’t realize is that, in your mom’s opinion, you’re at the pool. You’ve pulled up, and so you’re there. She never did understand that you were NOT there. You were close, but you were never at the pool until you were in the pool. As in, submerged. Completely.

But they’re still chatting.

“You wouldn’t believe the trouble I had getting out of the house this morning,” your mom says. And you agree 100%, as you tap your foot on the concrete. “See, I couldn’t find the sunscreen, and the stroller had a broken wheel. So I had to pull out the tools and fix it, and—“

“Oh, I know just what you mean,” her friend says, rubbing sunscreen across her nose, “I had a salon appointment this morning to get my hair colored. You know, I stopped to get coffee, and it should’ve been fast, but they were running behind, and I was late already. Then I spilled my coffee while I was driving—“

And now you’re thinking – coffee? Coffee?! How is coffee relevant to swimming? Why should I care? Why should she care?! Go wash it off in the POOL!

When you’re finally at the pool (as in, in it), you see at last why your mom insisted on hauling along all that extra junk. She’s not getting in the pool!  Dumfounded, you watch her sit in a beach chair with a magazine and her sunglasses and tan. But she’s not wearing the sunglasses; they’re sitting on her head. And you wonder what part of that is “going swimming?” (And also, why does she need sunscreen if she’s going to lie in the sun? How counterproductive is that?)

But it doesn’t matter, because now you can finally forget troubles like lost sunscreen and eternal greetings, and just play in the water. (And you did kick off your flip flops the second you got there. Duh.) Life is good.

Then, all too soon, your mom tells you it’s time to leave. But you notice that the sun is still up. It’s not dark. After all, a day at the pool is a day at the pool. A day. Today. ALL DAY. Right?

Remember when you were six years old, and you lived in the moment. Each moment, each day. Life wasn’t about deadlines and fine lines and eye liner. Life was about the joy of each breath.

And then you grew up. You probably laughed at this. But now you realize that life isn’t like that anymore. You’re busy and you realize you’ve lost part of what you had when you were six. Or you think you have. Where is the joy of each moment now?

I think I know. And I think you can still find it—if you look.

What I Look For in a Good Story

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That title pretty much sums up this post. I’ve gotten a few questions in the recent past about what I look for in a good story; what will and won’t keep me reading, etc., and so this post is about my opinion of a good story. I’m not going to say “what makes a good story”, because this might not be (and isn’t) the only way to do that.

But what do I personally look for in a good story?

Characters

First and foremost, what will always get my attention in a novel (or any piece of fiction) are good characters. I’m a person who is interested in people. Real people. Story people. People. I like to read about people, and I think most other folks enjoy it also. Good characters seems to be a fairly universal satisfier among readers.

One of my writing teachers once said, “A good [short] story is about a person with a problem.” He was referring to short fiction, but I believe this applies to all of fiction. For me, a story will not seem real unless the characters seem real; and the characters will not seem real unless they have a problem to solve. In other words, they can’t be perfect. Perfect characters are flat. They don’t seem real, because they can’t be real. Human beings are flawed, and so should good characters be.

If a story has good, three-dimensional characters with real, honest, human emotions, there is a 95% chance that I will read that book, regardless of, perhaps, a cliché plot, or some other “problem” it might have. Human characters are the clincher for me in any work of fiction.

Likewise, flat, undeveloped characters are almost always an instant turnoff in my book. The plot can be a work of art, but if I am not identifying with the people who are living it, I won’t invest as a reader. My favorite stories are nearly always character-based.

Plot

But having said all of that, a good plot never hurts. And of course, the less-cliché, the better. While the plot alone is not what will tend to keep me reading, it is what will make me pick up the book in the first place. You know those little blurbs on the back of the book that’s basically advertising the story? The synopsis. A good, intriguing synopsis will always catch my eye. Generally, the more complicated the story looks, and the more plot twists and excitement it promises, the more interested I will be. (Sorry folks, I’m not really a chick-flick kind of girl.)

However, I am definitely a romantic. Sounds backwards, I know. But the best stories, in my opinion, are the kind that are action-driven, with romance woven into the tapestry as well. Actually, the reason I love a good romantic subplot in action/adventure books and movies is because, if well-done, it can add a lot of depth to the characters.  In fact, my opinion is that a good plot should add to the characters, and not visa versa.

So really, my opinion of a “good story” is pretty simple. If I were to sum it up: Make me love your characters and let them live an exciting life.