Helen (heleninwales) wrote,

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Final thought on what makes a novel successful

This is going to be really short and it's a thought that struck me just recently.

As I've mentioned here before, I'm currently struggling my way through Harri Potter a Maen yr Athronydd, ie Harry Potter and the Philosopher's stone in Welsh. Because it's been getting on for 50 years since I read a book that slowly, it's been like walking slowly through a landscape instead of zooming through it in a car. Slowing right down made me notice something that I have never been aware of before. Namely that you need one cool thing per page. However wonderful the overall story, however interesting the characters, you need something cool every 300 words or so.

It doesn't matter what that "one cool thing" is. It will depend partly on genre and where you are in the novel. The one cool thing could be any one of:

  • a cool bit of background detail

  • a startling revelation about a character

  • an unexpected plot twist

  • a bit of gorgeous description

  • a dramatic moment

  • a cliff-hanger

  • a particularly apt metaphor

  • a humorous moment

  • a moment of wonder

Or some other thing that I can't think of off the top of my head after a long day.

But there must never be a page of consisting entirely of adequate prose.

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