Tuesday, October 26, 2010

I voted

At least, that's what the sticker on my purse says.
I've been thinking lately about what makes a book, or just a story in general, truly moving. I'm more than halfway through a book that I started when I got home from work yesterday at about 9:30 p.m. It's the third and final in a series that's had me riveted since about the third chapter of the first book.
So, what is it about stories that are truly riveting? I'll discuss, with a caveat: I'm a total book slut and will read anything. I have even read, and been unable to put down, the Twilight series. Please don't judge me too harshly.
But there's something lacking from those books, even while they are entertaining. The following is a list of what the Hunger Games, Harry Potter, Grimm's fairy tales and even Lord of the Rings and Star Wars, though I've never read those, have, that Twilight does not.
1. Good vs. evil: It's the basic plot of pretty much every worthwhile story. Inherently, we're all drawn to this idea because we can all relate. We've all struggled with evil at a personal level.
2. Characters with soul (no pun intended): I have to care about characters to like a story. If I can connect with a person, or like them, or suffer with them or be scared with them, that says a lot about the character. For that time, the story becomes my reality and thus alters my actual reality with this new perspective. Without that, it remains superficial entertainment.
3. Sacrifice. Sirius Black dies, as does Fred Weasley So do Dumbledore and Tonks and Lupin right after their son is born. Harry never knows his parents. Luke Skywalker's mother dies in childbirth, and his father essentially dies as well. The elf captain and the human prince die in battle against the Orcs. Cinderella's father. Both of Bambi's parents. Aslan is killed, and no one but he knows that isn't permanent.
When good battles evil, everything is on the line. Good people will die. It's all sweet and nice when everybody goes home swinging, but evil fights far too hard for that to happen. A writer should trust his readers, and his own writing and character development, to allow grief and understanding.
4. Triumph. True stories often aren't about overcoming evil, but they're usually about overcoming something that could be classified as evil: hatred, prejudice, ignorance, poverty, war, greed.
5. Heroism. Not a hero, necessarily, but situations that require heroics and people who step in to meet that need. I like having someone to root for.
6. Larger-than-them-ness. What is Aragorn in the fight for? Gandalf? Harry Potter? Obi Wan Kenobi? It ain't for the glory, that's for sure. There in a cause that is much bigger than them. All of Twilight's characters are actually quite selfish. The only character who cares more about someone else, and really the only good character in the series, is Charlie, the normal, mortal father of a whiny, insecure teenage girl.
But, what can I say? Still a book slut, not gonna change anytime soon.


  1. Geez! Spoiler alert much? :)

  2. Haha. I was thinking, I hope anyone who reads this already knows/doesn't care who dies.

    I read Twilight too. It was like a soap opera - completely unrealistic behaviors by the characters, totally irritating, whiny girl, over-protective boyfriend(s), damsel-in-distress nonsense. And I couldn't put it down. But I agree, not in the same category as the really good books.