Guest Blogger Carmen Stefanescu: The Qualities of a Good Book

Today, I’m delighted to welcome my good friend, Carmen Stefanescu back to my blog with a post about the qualities that go into a good book. I’d love to get your opinion in the comments, and I know Carmen would too. So….

To be or not to be a good book?
By Carmen Stefanescu

The question What makes a good book? has been popping up in my head quite a bit lately while reading, and especially, writing my own books.

I stop writing only to reread what I’ve written and wonder, “Is this good?”

Now, what is a good book? I think it’s a legitimate question to ask ourselves. What defines good? Should it be my own definition, someone else’s, or based on popular opinion? The opinion of what makes a good book is almost entirely subjective.
Think of an old favorite book you’ve read again and again. Can you picture it in your head, almost as if you had a copy in your hands, ready to open and start reading right now?

A woman sitting on the beach reading a book. Her back is to the camera, with ocean in front. Done in a wash of faded colors

Think about it for a while. Pick the story apart and mull it over a bit. What makes  you love the story? What makes you keep coming back to it time and again? What makes your mind wander back to the story and muse about it? What qualities of that book do you love and cherish?

What are the elements of a good book for me? Well, here’s what I have in mind, speaking from a reader’s POV:

PLOT
The best kind of plot is one that keeps people reading because they are so engrossed and intrigued that they just can’t put the book down. Personally, I like when I don’t know what’s going to happen in a plot. Predictability is something I tend to dislike because, in my eyes, nothing kills a story faster than too much predictability. Predictability in small doses is fine – but readers don’t want to be right all the time. Unnecessary scenes that don’t add to the plot or character growth in any way, shape, or form should be edited – or cut out completely.

ELEMENTS YOU RELATE TO
It doesn’t matter whether I’m reading  mystery, paranormal or fantasy as long as there are realistic and relatable elements to the plot and characters. Realism may not apply to realms of fiction, but elements of realism always should. Nothing is perfect, not even in a utopian setting, because people are not perfect. The imperfections add a relatable element whatever story is being told.

Emotion is probably the highest relatable factor for me when I’m reading. I may never have met a vampire or kissed a shapeshifter, but I know the tugs of love and the irrational thoughts and passions that come with it. The circumstances don’t matter as long as readers feel along with the characters. It’s a challenge for writers, yes, but it leads to more of a deep and meaningful story.

CONSISTENCY
Storytelling needs to have a flow to the writing – and there’s nothing that breaks a flow in storytelling like inconsistencies in characters, backstories, or the writing style itself.

Don’t you hate it when you’re reading a book that’s keeping you guessing – only to hit a snag and get thrown out of the story completely because you read something that just didn’t make sense?  Writers need to know their worlds, the worlds’ rules, and the characters inhabiting said worlds. Readers will settle for the  easy resolution but they don’t like them because they don’t reflect real life, which almost always bears struggle and conflict. Happily ever afters are preferred by readers, but they’re much more meaningful if the characters have ‘paid their dues’ to earn the HEA.

conceptual idea with an open book standing on a hillside, with clouds above and 3D images of a chair and trees within the bookWRITING
I often know a book will be good if I am envious of the writing. While that sounds a weird thing to say, keep in mind that I am a writer myself. If I can read a first passage in a book and think, “Wow, I wish I could write like this,” then that’s saying something, isn’t it?

Though tastes vary, descriptions aren’t a bad thing since a writing style can help give a book its own specific kind of atmosphere. The point, is less is more. Not many readers like to barrel through paragraphs of description, no matter how beautifully written, because it slogs down the story.

CHARACTERS
I may be a bit critical, but I always fall hard for characters. I look at it this way: why read about characters I don’t like? I want to root for that character no matter what. I want to stand behind him/her and his/her decisions. I want to follow him/her on whatever journey is unfolding in his/her life.

Flaws  and ambiguity. They’re necessary. Why did so many of us Pride and Prejudice fans come out loving  Darcy, arrogant man that he could be? Because he was flawed and ambiguous only to show greater depth and emotion than any reader had likely imagined.

To conclude – I leave the question to all your followers: what makes a good book for you? Make it a big question of the day, because, honestly, isn’t a good book what anyone is hoping for any time they sit down and open a book to read?

Keep your reader reading.

Author, Carmen Stefanescu smiling for cameraAUTHOR BIO
Carmen Stefanescu resides in Romania, the native country of the infamous vampire Count Dracula, but where, for about 50 years of communist dictatorship, just speaking about God, faith, reincarnation or paranormal phenomena could have led someone to great trouble – the psychiatric hospital if not to prison.

High school teacher of English and German in her native country, and mother of two daughters, Carmen Stefanescu survived the grim years of oppression, by escaping in a parallel world that of the books.

Several of her poems were successfully published in a collection of Contemporary English Poems, Muse Whispers vol.1 and Muse Whispers vol.2 by Midnight Edition Publication, in 2001 and 2002.

Her first novel, Shadows of the Past, was released in 2012 by Wild Child Publishing, USA.

Carmen joined the volunteer staff at Marketing For Romance Writers Author blog and is the coordinator of #Thursday13 posts.

Books by Carmen Stefanescu

shadowsofthepastbkBook cover for Till Life Do Us Part by Carmen Stefanescu shows a trees at night framing a full moonShadows of the Past
Paranormal/light romance/light historical/light mystery

Till Life Do Us Part
Paranormal/light romance/light historical/light mystery


You can stalk the author at the following haunts:
Blog | Twitter | Pinterest | Facebook | Goodreads | Google+ | Amazon

BONUS THOUGHT:
I don’t know about where you live, but here, in Romania we experienced a heat wave this past summer with temperature over 45 Celsius degrees. Hot! The weather brought thunderstorms and lightening strikes. Did I say I was happy for summer to end, even though I don’t really like autumn? Here are my feelings about autumn:

AUTUMN AGAIN 

Autumn has turned up

on my doorstep.

Again !

country lane on a wet rainy autumn day,Drenched, tempestuous, frowned.

Rusted leaves are coiled

in her dripping hair,

a gray, foggy cape

wrapping her to the ground.

She pierces my soul with

cold, distant eyes.

Her breath smells of

rottenness and rain.

Dejected I bend my head,

and I sigh.

My hopes she forgot

where I lived were in vain.

63 thoughts on “Guest Blogger Carmen Stefanescu: The Qualities of a Good Book

  1. I loved this post, all the different elements made it a great read. (Qualities of a good post!)
    And the autumn poem summed up this time of year perfectly, even though I do try not to feel sad about the season. I have to remind myself that the trees are simply sleeping and will come again next spring…

    • I am glad you agree with my points here. As about autumn, you already read my opinion on it in the poem. And right now it’s exactly as I wrote – drenched, tempestuous. Unfriendly.

    • I love autumn (although I’m more of a summer girl). And all those turning leaves and crisp colors make it a great time to curl up with a good book 🙂 Thanks for commenting on Carmen’s post!

  2. A lot to chew over. A good story is a must and yes, if we don’t like the main characters we don’t care what happens to them – that still leaves room for other characters to be annoying or awful. There are many good books I’ve read, looking forward to getting back to the next chapter; but the novels that really stand out for me are the ones that have a lyrical quality.
    As for autumn, I love it, but in England it hasn’t started properly, leaves on the trees, no frost. I lived in Western Australia for nine years so I think it made me appreciate having Seasons – I love all four of them.

    • Hello, and thanks for checking out Carmen’s post! I’m in the Northeast of the US, and autumn hasn’t set in here yet either. Like you, I love the four seasons (although I would restrict winter to December if it were up to me) 🙂

      I love a lyrical quality in novels as well. I tend to find that in stories with denser plots and narratives, where I can lose myself in the prose. Although even then, I have to care about the main characters!

    • Thank you for reading and commenting on my post!

      We generally have the traditional four seasons. But this year it was from winter to summer directly, and now after a too warm September it’s a real winter cold all around.

  3. Great post! For me, I think the whole character thing is key. If I like the characters, I’ll tolerate a certain amount of excessive description or predicable plot. Wanting to know what happens next draws me into the story as well. I remember the first time I read Terry Goodkind’s Wizard’s First Rule. I remember noticing how I wanted to read on, and tried to figure out why the story compelled me. I loved the main characters, there was an intriguing plot, and Goodkind managed to end every chapter with the type of cliffhanger that makes the reader want to read “just one more chapter”. I think I finished the book in two days.

    And I love autumn–except for the part where winter follows 🙂

    • Julie, I’m with you on that part about where winter follows 🙂
      Characters are key for me too. I’m so glad Carmen hit on that. Like her “I always fall hard for characters.” Isn’t it great when you find a wonderful book that makes you eagerly flip the pages?
      I’m one of those odd readers who does like dense descriptions and lengthy prose, especially if I’m reading historicals or fantasy. A lot of writers are moving away from that today. It makes me want to dig out some very old books and get lost in them 🙂

    • Thank you for leaving a comment!
      I’m with you regarding the characters. After all they are those we feel for, suffer for and are happy when they succeed in their endeavor.

      Yes, exactly, that is the unwanted part- a freezing cold and mountains high snows. It happens around here almost each winter.
      Mae surely remembers some photos I sent with my house almost covered by snow.

      • I do remember those, Carmen! Hopefully,you won’t have another winter like that. Ours was horrible last year too. The worst snowfall we had in decades. Ugh!

  4. How lovely to see Carmen here! And such a great post, too. Thanks for making me think about each item. I confess, for me, first and foremost, above all else, I need characters I love and am invested in. Without that, the cleverest plot in the world won’t hold my interest. But having it ALL is the very best thing, and a wonderful goal.

    LOVE the poem about autumn, though I have to say that autumn is my absolute favorite time of the year. Autumn in Florida usually means a break in the mind-searing temperatures of summer, even if only slightly. Last night, it was a blissfully cool 70 degrees by 9:00PM, and that’s cooler than I set my a/c for, so I was happy. And our daily highs have dropped from 102 or so in July, to 84 yesterday. Still hot, but not “passing out” time. So yay, autumn. And when I get to spend it in the mountains, it’s too beautiful for words. Still, there ARE autumn days that can turn your thoughts to the maudlin and unhappy, and you captured those days perfectly in the poem. I LOVE “rusted leaves are coiled in her dripping hair.” An absolutely delicious line.

    I’m going to reblog this on The Write Stuff! Everyone should read it. Well done, Carmen, my friend! 🙂

    • Marcia, thanks so much for reblogging Carmen’s post. I think it’s a great one for getting discussions rolling.

      I’m a fan of characters too. Character-driven fiction is my favorite kind, and if I fall in love with your character, consider me a goner. There are a few authors out there who have successfully wrapped me in up their worlds.

      I love autumn too, although are temps are far cooler than yours. 84 up here is summer, LOL!

    • Thank you, Marcia, for your kind words and for reblogging!
      I understand that you live in an area where winter is milder. Or don’t you have winter at all?
      This year, October, despite predictions offered us bitterly cold temperatures that forced us to start the fire in the terracotta stove. We only hope that winter will be milder if autumn is so winter like.
      I will visit your blog after this.
      Thanks again!

  5. I love what you said about writers reading and being jealous of the writer’s talent, wishing to write that well. I’ve found myself feeling the same way, and I agree; that is how I know I’ve found a great work.

    • I’m with Carmen and you on that one, Staci. I’ve experienced those same feelings, and when I do, that author generally becomes an automatic buy for me.
      Tana French is my newest discovery. I’m in awe of the way she sets a scene.

    • I’m glad you agree with me in this respect. Yes, this is the sign we found a good book and a talented author. Thank you for stopping by!

    • Looks like there are a lot of autumn fans around here (consider me one too), although I’ve never experience autumn in Romania, so that could be different.
      Carmen, would you like to weigh in on that?
      And Carmen’s post does make a great lesson plan for authors. I need to keep these points in mind as I work on my current WIP!

      • Oh, why not?
        In fact autumn here is resplendent. Colors, smells. Fruit and vegetables loading the counters in markets. Fresh grapes juice and the smell of a traditional Romanian food on the grill- mititei. – a kind of small sausages, strong garlicky- we live in Dracula’s country after all. This is always autumn. Except this year.

    • Thank you, Craig! I feel honored to read your words on my post.
      Yes, I know you enjoy autumn, being born in one of its months. I can’t say I love winter for the same reason. On the contrary. I think that being no longer a child to play in the snow I see only the disadvantages. So it is with autumn, too.
      Yes, we could do the trade if your summer is not one with thunderstorms. I hate that.

  6. Thoughtful post, Carmen. Thank you. For me it’s always characters, but in my current WIP I am working much harder on plot and my evil-doer….but I guess that’s character again. Loved your poem. Anni. xx
    PS. I shared your post on FB.

    • Thank you, Anni, for your kind words!
      I know you also give precious info on writing so U am glad you found it interesting.
      Thanks for sharing!

    • Thank you, Natalie, for your words!
      Poetry was the first thing I wrote. Longer fiction came much later. And my poems are on nature and life.
      Carmen

  7. Great post. I definitely agree with Carmen on what makes a good book, especially her notes on the “writing.” I love opening a book and being impressed by the quality of the writing. I can tell, in my mind anyway, when an author is in love with language.

    • Thank you, Flossie for checking the post and leaving a comment!
      Knowing your writing, your exquisite gift with words, you’re, together with Mae, among those I’m “jealous” on! In the positive way!

  8. Totally agree with all your points, Carmen…except one: HEA endings. But you’re so prolific I’m betting you’ll agree that noir readers don’t want a happy ending. Some gritty thrillers can also get away with no HEA.

    Your poem is so beautiful. Loved it! Fall in New England is breathtaking; it saddens me that you have wet and dreary. Maybe we can mail you some color for your trees. 🙂

    • Excellent point about the HEA, Sue. That does come down to genre, and the examples you gave are good ones.

      I bet it’s breathtaking where you are. I remember being in Concord, Mass in October one year and it was gorgeous. Some day I must make it further up into deep New England and see that lovely splendor you get to enjoy for myself.

      Thanks for checking out Carmen’s post. 🙂

    • Big sigh!
      I don’t want to contradict you. I, and Mae knows it, write in not so optimistic colors. There’s a dark feeling pervading my stories.
      If you read Shadows of the Past you will understand my point.
      Till Life Do Us Part, my latest release, had a tragic ending. At first. Then, at the request of the editor and some of the betareaders I changed it to a HEA.
      Sometimes Danielle Steele’s words ring in my mind “If I want to cry, I don’t need to read a book. I just look around me.”

      Thank you for liking the poem! Usually, here, autumn is an awesome palette of colors. This year is an exception.
      Yes, mail it together with some sunny days, too!

      • LOL I write dark, gritty thrillers, so I can relate. But I wasn’t referring to making the reader cry. Sorry I wasn’t clearer. I was more referencing an ending that strikes fear or uncertainty in the reader.

    • Fabulous, Sherry. Carmen’s books have a unique blend of history, mystery, the supernatural and even a splash of romance. And I’m glad you enjoyed the poem…perfect for this time of year! 🙂

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