Guest Post: What Makes A Good Story? by Andi Cumbo-Floyd

I met Andi Cumbo-Floyd on Twitter in 2012, and then had the pleasure of rooming with her at the Quitter Conference in Nashville. She is an amazing woman who has achieved her dreams by the help and grace of God. Not only is she a talented writer, editor, teacher, mentor and coach, she’s a farmer too. Her new book, Steele Secrets is releasing on February 9th. Be sure to pre-order your copy on here or her website. I was blessed to interview her back in 2013 (you can read the interview here). Today she visits again and writes about what makes a good story.

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I read a lot of novels. . . . from “literary” fiction to Young Adult fiction to cozy mysteries – I love a good story, and I have no desire to be picky about the labels I choose my reading from. A good story is as good story is a good story.

Admittedly, each of us is going to have our own definition of what makes something a good story. Some of us like setting to be prominent with the streets and trees, time period and geography guiding us to deeper understanding of the storyline. Others prefer characters who are likeable, who take risks, who struggle openly on the page. Book preferences are like shoe preferences – there’s no right and wrong, just taste.

But I do think some characteristics are universal across all the good novels we read.

  1. Not the vampire ones (necessarily) but something that could be lost. . . from a relationship to innocence to treasure to life itself. If the characters can’t be a risk to lose something, then we probably aren’t going to care.
  2. Recognizable Experience. Many of us love to share this quote from Shadowlands, the film about C.S. Lewis – “We read to know we’re not alone.” That’s totally true. We want to see ourselves on the page.
  3. New Experience. The flipside of reading to find ourselves is the fact that we read to learn. We learn about different cultures, different situations, different time periods. A good book can help us relate to the characters even as we gain new perspectives.
  4. Appropriate Pacing. A novel can move really quickly or very slowly, and both are great. But the pacing has to be fitting for the story itself. A story of a lifelong friendship will probably be paced more slowly, but a suspense thriller will probably move quickly. . . the irony is that a long timescape often has a slower pace, and a shorter timeframe moves more quickly.
  5. Consistency and Clarity. The bottom line is that no matter what sort of novel, it should be consistent within itself. We’ve all read novels where the pace or setting or point of view change for no clear reason. . . those are the novels we usually put down.

So if you prefer a legal thriller or a psychological exploration, a supernatural travail or a basic romance, the basics of a good novel are the same. . . it needs to keep you invested, engage your emotions, and insure that you are never lost within the story.

I’m off . . . I have a vampire/werewolf mystery to finish.

What kind of novels do you love? What makes a good novel for you?

Andi Cumbo-Floyd is a writer, editor, and farmer, who lives at the edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains with her husband, four dogs, four cats, six goats, and twenty-three chickens.  Her new novel Steele Secrets comes out on February 9. You can connect with Andi at her website –andilit.com, or on Facebook TwitterLinkedIn.