Monday, April 28, 2014

Memorable Novels

by Joan

“When a man is in doubt about this or that in his writing, it will often guide him if he asks himself how it will tell a hundred years hence.” Samuel Butler

As writers we want our words to have meaning, to be everlasting. Why else write them down? Why else seek publication?

But what makes a memorable novel? Sometimes I’ll read a book – one I truly loved – and not remember many details, only that it touched me in some way. Less frequently I’ll read a novel, close the cover and want to reread it immediately. Or I'll think about the characters for days later, if not months and years. Wonder, not how the author accomplished this or that, but what those characters are doing now. As though they are flesh and blood, not ink on a page.

Yann Martel’s Life of Pi stayed with me for years. I’m still haunted by Richard Parker, and by Pi’s message. Which story is easier to believe?

I’ll never forget Vida Winter, her arthritic bejeweled fingers and black bangs, how she slowly unfurled the story of her tragic childhood to Margaret. And Margaret traipsing through the burned-out ruin of Vida’s childhood home.

The quest to write a memorable novel haunts every author. I might have a good novel in me, I might have a thrilling novel in me. But do I have a memorable novel? How will my story tell a hundred years hence?

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