Wednesday, March 14, 2012

IMPACT: Your Story's Effect

Sometimes I read reviews or hear about books that elicit strong reactions from people. The books affect them in a momentous way. They weep during the reading, or laugh all the way through it. They're inspired or challenged. Their minds and lives have been changed by the arrangement of words the author has placed on the page.

These are books that linger in people's minds long after they reach the final words and close the book (or turn off their e-reader). I think that's fascinating!

How can we make our books this powerful? Consider the following list.

1. Compelling. Does it make people stay up past their bedtimes, unable to quit reading?
2. Exciting. Does it make people's hearts pound as they race through the pages?
3. Humorous. Do parts of it make someone snicker, chuckle, or laugh outright?
4. Poignant/sad. Do parts make people cry or feel grief as they relate and sympathize?
5. Emotive. As a whole, does it elicit a varied range of emotions, make people FEEL?
6. Affirming. Does it promote an appreciation of life as something worthwhile?
7. Life-changing. Does it cause people to look at the world in a totally different way?
8. Thought-provoking. Does it cause people to contemplate or reconsider their views?
9. Challenging. Does it stir up controversy, test long-held beliefs, defy the status quo?
10. Inspirational. Does it encourage, foster joy, generate exhilaration, or spark creativity?
11. Intriguing. Is it fascinating and wondrous, presenting something in a unique way?
12. Beneficial. Does your book cause an effect that improves/betters the world/people?
13. Wholesome. Does it affirm high morals, affirm positive values, promote integrity?
14. Instructive. Does it show others how to solve problems or find courage to change?
15. Informative. Does it tell about science, politics, nature, etc? (usually nonfiction)
16. Entertaining. Does it help people unwind, relax--or provide a much-needed respite?

No one book has to do ALL these things, though I suspect the "classics" or most popular books contain more of the things from this list than their counterparts. It's also true that it's extremely subjective; what affects one person will not affect another person in the same way.

But that's what makes writing challenging and exciting, right?

Do you think a book must contain some or all of these things to be successful?
How does your book rate with this list; do you need to improve in certain areas?
If you had to choose THREE points from this list--the things you'd definitely want your story to be--which ones would you select?


  1. Oh wow--they are all good ones! I would be happy with a few like compelling and emotive. I think that's why I struggle so much with writing-- I want my words to do something!

  2. If I had to chose three I'd probably go with Compelling, Emotive and Thought-provoking. A story that can do all three of those things is still pretty well-rounded. :)

  3. GREAt list, Carol! I love this post. :-)

  4. Love the list, Carol! I don't think they need all of these for every book. Sometimes I enjoy reading exciting and intriguing books and I don't really want my thoughts to be provoked! LOL I just want to chill and read a fun story. Doesn't mean I like it less/more than a compelling, thought-provoking book or that it's not as well written. It's equally as good, just different. :)

  5. Great list to ponder over.

    I would go with 1, 7, and 9 or 10.

  6. 1, 5, & 9 are important. I think 2, 3, and 4 could go under number 5 too. Thanks for the list, much to think about when writing.

  7. All your items are important; it's difficult to decide. I guess whatever combination of those things that causes the reader to be enthralled with my story. You know, when you want to skip a meal to finish the book? Thanks for another great post, Carol!

  8. I'll pick three Es. Exciting, emotive, entertaining. That's what I aim for in mine. I think as long as people can be truly swept into the story, it'll stay with them.

  9. Great list. My favorite books have more than one of these qualities. I love it when a book has a great impact on me and I can't stop thinking about it after I'm done.

  10. Yep, this is a great list, but I can no longer tell if my stories have these elements--especially by the time I've finished editing them. That's why I love critique partners and beta readers...and breaks.

  11. What a great post! I would pick compelling, emotive, and entertaining for the three elements I definitely want my stories to be.

    BTW- just wanted you to know I left you an award on my blog.

  12. Firstly when reading I determine a great book because the characters captivate me, since I read and write adult and YA novels the key criteria for me is the characters, something vulnerable about them has to impact me.

    Since the world has moved on to HUNGER GAMES the reason I loved the main character was her dedication she had for her family, that touched me; Katniss was more concerned about her family welfare was immensely touching, and the romance was part of the character arc she really did soul search her decision and as a reader I understood her choice even though it was easily predicted.

    Writing this response it seems like the characters are so real to me when I know they are not so that is the answer I guess also the what if... scared me are we so far from a cruel society in which a government can make horrific laws that affect citizens, so I think for me as a writer I want to hopefully make my readers care for my characters, their journeys and hopefully keep readers intrigued because they really have to care what happens to the main players in the story.

  13. I have to pick just three? Ok - entertaining, inspirational and exciting - that's my hope for my MS.
    Loved this post!
    and I have an award for you!

  14. 1, 3, and 5 seem most compelling to me.

    GREAT LIST!!!!

  15. 1,5,8,13,14, and 15 are my goals for my mg hf novel....

    Great list and super post!

  16. I think the most important is compelling...
    And then some of the others included makes a good story.

  17. I agree with Michelle. Compelling is the most important.

  18. I think I'd aim for compelling and humorous. I always love to read a book that makes me sincerely laugh, and quite often that's a book I'll return to for the sheer pleasure of the humor. Poignant and life-changing are pretty good, too! If my books can do those four things, I'll die a happy writer!

  19. Great post. It seems to me that the more items on your list a novel can hit, the more powerful that novel will be. For my novel, I'd probably choose compelling, exciting, and humorous--and not just because these are the first three on the list. : )

  20. I hope my books are challenging and inspirational. Those are the aspects I worry about/struggle with the most.

  21. Wow, what a great list! If I had to pick three of those, I'd want my story to be compelling, entertaining and thought-provoking. But so many other things on that last are good.... ;) Great post!


Hi, bloggy buddies! I respond to all comments via email if you have an address linked to your profile. Sorry, I have had to turn OFF comments from Anonymous users due to Spam.