What do I love about writing most? Well, it’s the same things that made me such an avid reader in the first place. Books have the ability to transport us to new worlds, or periods of time that are otherwise completely locked away from us. The immersion can be so deep from a novel that we can imagine every step that any given character makes, and it is bringing those same characters to life that is the greatest joy for me as a writer.
A book needs to be well written and full of descriptive passages, as they play an essential part in setting a scene and giving the writer’s world depth. But it is the characters within that world, their hopes, wishes, loves, and desires that will make the story come to life. When constructing a character for a novel, you want to be able to really get under their skin, understand all their passions and frustrations, their strengths but equally their weaknesses. Only then can you understand how they will react to any given situation and the tale you spin around them be believable and real.
After reading a really good book, I often feel I actually know the characters, that I’ve shared so much of what they have been through that a bond now exists between us. When you write a novel, it’s no different – I often find myself thinking of the characters in my novel, Roman Mask: Cassius, Marcus, and Numeria. Thoughts of them come unbidden into my thoughts just as if they were people I knew well, or an old friend that comes to mind unexpectedly. The only difference is this time, if not for you, that character wouldn’t exist. It’s a powerful thought.
I often hear people discussing what makes a great novel. Often people discuss a book’s prose or its clever and exciting plot. I would never belittle the importance of such things, but for myself, what turns a good novel into a great one is the people who populate it – and if you find yourself forgetting that they came from somebody’s imagination, then the author has done his job well.
Do you agree? How do you judge a good book?