Girls Write Out
Tuesday, June 17, 2008

I am a book snob. I realize now I've been one for some time, but it wasn’t until today that I finally admitted it. I went into Borders in search of a good novel and after much cover-gazing, page-flipping, and first-paragraph reading, I left empty handed.

For me, reading is more than entertainment. I’m fully aware that what I read bleeds into my own writing. I want the novels I read to influence my writing in a good way as much as I want to be carried away to another world for a few hours.

I didn’t leave with a novel today, but I did figure out what I’m looking for. For me the perfect novel would:

1. Have a compelling hook. Something in the back cover copy that intrigues me and makes me want to know more.

2. Have a love story. Doesn’t have to be the be-all and end-all of the book, but I want a romance thread in there somewhere.

3. Have great writing. I will settle for good writing if the story is a page-turner, but I do love a writer who has fresh observations or can say something old in a new way.

4. Be a contemporary set in the USA. I know, I know, I should broaden my horizons, but what can I say? I like the familiar.

5. Be clean! Foul language every other line? Random sex acts littering the pages? No thanks.

6. Be in 3rd person, preferably, unless it’s 1st person well done.

7. Show me some white space. On the page that is. What is with these authors who write page-long paragraphs? I don’t have the attention span for that and even if a book has nailed 1-6, I will not buy it if it’s too wordy. Bring on the dialogue!

8. Have a hopeful ending. True, I can’t know this until I read the book, but this will determine if I buy that author again. And no, I absolutely will not read the end first.

Hopefully, you’re not as picky as I am, but what does your perfect read look like?
Denise Hunter  
posted at 7:00 AM  
  Comments (26)
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At 11:28 PM, Blogger Krista Phillips said...

Funny, my perfect book pretty much mirrors yours! I much prefer the 3rd person and a bit of romance and happy ending are perfect! These are also the books I strive to WRITE too (and I would add that I love with the book has a bit of humor in it, I love to laugh!)

I personally am working on the 'too wordy' part. As a newbie writer it is difficult to want to get carried away, but I can honestly say I don't have any page long paragraphs thank goodness!!

What is the worst is when you pick up a book that you THINK is going to be all eight of those you listed, and at the end are disappointed (ie boy doesn't get girl, no real satisfying ending..)

At 12:06 AM, Blogger Chelf said...

I am a book snob too, but I have different reasons.

I think Books are almost always better than movies (at least when the book came first).

I love the smell of an old book. Musty paper, and dried up old thick ink just set my imagination aflame.

I love the rummaging of the library, to find a book that I want to read, but don't want to pay for until I know it will be worth the expense.

I love the processes of proofreading and printing, as they are essential to reading that new novel.

I like getting to know writers. It reminds me that they are people just like me, and with a little practice and some luck, I can join the ranks.

At 12:11 AM, Blogger Anna Marie said...

Oh, I'm glad to hear You and Krista prefer the 3rd person. I'm taking a writing course, and I feel more comfortable writing in the 3rd

And Krista, I hear you. I fall in love with my own words. :)

At 6:51 AM, Blogger Sarah said...

My favorite books are re-readable ones. They have to be interesting and "feel-good" enough that I will want to pick them up again in a few months and just read a few chapters or even read the whole book a second time.

I also really like well organized chapters. I'm frustrated as a reader when a new chapter starts and the only reason seems to be because the last one was getting too long. I'm no expert, but I think the chapters should be separated as such for a reason.

My favorite old-time author, Lucy Maud Montgomery, started off as a short story writer and it's very evident in her books. Each chapter can be read alone, almost as if it is a short story, but the overall story of the book keeps you reading.

At 7:40 AM, Blogger Colleen Coble said...

That picture even looks like you, D! LOL

My perfect book has suspense in it. Some romance. 3rd person. An interesting setting and interesting characters. I don't care about fancy writing but I want to FEEL what the characters feel.

I am not a book snob though. I'll read the cereal box when nothing else presents itself. LOL I can overlook some telling but if the whole book is that way, I'm not feeling the emotion so I'll put it down. I hate head hopping.

I also want some morality in the story. I can't stand to read about a man or woman who hops into bed with half a dozen people in the course of the book. I can skip most bad language but if the F-word is thrown at me over and over, I'll put it down.

I like American based stories, though I enjoy books that take me to other countries too. I like to learn something when I read. Mostly I just love a great premise that makes me want to know what happens.

At 8:35 AM, Blogger OK Chick said...

#5 is hard to find.

I agree with Krista, I hate when I pick up a book and end up disppointed.

Good luck on your find.

At 9:28 AM, Blogger Rhonda/WA state said...

No foul language. No sex. No tears. (Although I love Karen Kingsbury's books.) The story needs to be set in the present preferably.

Give me laugh-out-loud stuff. That's what grabbed me with Kristin's and Diann's books. Make me laugh. There's too much going on in my life to make me cry right now.

At 11:19 AM, Blogger Denise Hunter said...

Great additions everyone. Humor is always good.

I forgot the most important one, though it's intangible. C reminded me of it--I want to feel. Make me feel, make me cry, make my stomach clench. I love an author who can do that.

At 11:20 AM, Blogger hotcoffeenow said...

My perfect read mirrors most of what you listed. Since I refuse to read used books, I must really be hooked by something I pick up in the store if I'm going to spend the full price on it. My favorite reads are fluffy chick-lit - I love to be taken away and entertained - and laugh. I like to find comparisons in the characters and IRL friends. And I do judge a book by its cover. :) (ok, unless it's an author whose writing I've already decided I enjoy)


At 12:31 PM, Blogger Deena said...

I'm HIGHLY picky...and your list pretty much parallels mine...except I prefer a little mischief and mayhem vs. romance:-)
This is why I mostly stick to Christian reading unless I get a 'no ick factor' recommendation from a friend in the know.

At 1:13 PM, Blogger Kristin said...

For me, I want to be so involved in the character's world, that I have to be close to them. So it's first or close third for me, or just well-written characterization. I don't really care what the subject is, but I don't like straight romance really, or suspense. My life is too tense as it is, but I like Ann Rule's true crime because of the psychology included. It's hard for fiction to satisfy me, I will say. My favorite books of the last years that stand out to me, and some of them may be old, I just read them:
Marley & Me (Memoir)
Leaving the Saints (biography)
The Glass Castle (memoir)
A Thousand Splendid Suns (fiction, YAY!)
The Amateur Marriage (fiction, YAY!)

I tried to read "The Shack" couldn't get into it, but as a mother of four, I don't want to go through the dead child thing. I'm reading a lot of books on Demons for research right now and I want to read "Under the Banner of Heaven" which has been recommended to me. Also reading "The Sacred Marriage". Little old, but fabulous and pretty much the theme I'm working on in this book. Sheesh, I'm so cutting edge (NOT!)

At 1:21 PM, Blogger Jaime said...

I'm not too picky - I also read the air fresheners in bathrooms when I'm bored. (ahem - er)

My thing is I need to get "caught" in the first chapter or you've lost me. There's a very popular author who so many love but I CANNOT get into her books because it takes 3-4 chapters for her to set the stage before she starts the story. I can't do that. Set the stage WHILE you're starting the story.

I'm not stuck on one genre. I love historical fiction and suspense. Chick Lit would be a third in line. I used to enjoy Amish books, but it seems there's SO MANY now, I'm kind of burnt out on Amish. (EXCEPT FOR COLLEEN'S, of course! *wink, wink* I shall always be loyal there)

Anyway, I also enjoy the old classics - I'm a House of Seven Gables junkie, Narnia, and yes, Nancy Drew.

But a good cover is a must. I'm a sucker for a good cover. :)

At 2:19 PM, Blogger allen said...

I want a book to slowly pull me in and then hold my attention so that I am reading it while cooking, walking to the corner store or showering...yes. I once read a book in the shower. Helps to have long arms. If a book makes me lose sleep because I can't put it down, it's a keeper!

At 4:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Denise your list looks almost exactly like mine. I have to admit that I too am I book snob and I make no apologies for it. I think you have to be to some degree especially with all the trash floating around these days (particularly in the chick-lit genre). But I do know some VERY good books you might be interested in:

1. Kissing Adrien by Siri L. Mitchell

2. The Cubicle Next Door also by Siri L. Mitchell

3. The Guy I'm Not Dating by Trish Perry

4. The Book of Jane by Anne Dayton

5. Only Uni by Camy Tang

I have to say that out of all of these Kissing Adrien is the best. It is the most romantic book I have ever read hands down.

At 4:14 PM, Blogger Kristin said...

After all that, I just bought two novels. The Monster of Venice and Made in America by Billie Letts. LOL

At 4:27 PM, Blogger Tina said...

Me too. I want hopeful endings and none of that gratuitous violence and sex. Like your books, Kristin!

At 4:28 PM, Blogger Tina said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 5:55 PM, Blogger Kay said...

I actually don't care about a lot of things as long as the characters mean something to me and the writing is good.
I do look for stories written in narrative style because I am one of the rare people, (apparently) who actually like that. Mostly I like anything that is different from the norm.
I like tragedies and such, but those are hard to find as well.
I read all genres and so I guess I am not a book snob, but I do put a book down if it hasn't captured me by the end of the second chapter or so.

At 6:39 PM, Blogger Gracie said...

Deep characterization. I have to be so close to the character that I forget who I am. I love first person for this, though I'll take third if it's close.

Detailed plot. I've read books with no tension at all, and it drives me insane! Also, the plot should have several threads, but there shouldn't be so many that I close the book feeling dizzy.

Natural dialogue. I like alot of dialogue, but it has to sound like the character. Some authors write huge paragraphs of dialogue that sounds nothing like what the character would say. I end up thinking, "No one talks this way."

Action, action, action! I love fantasy and certain suspense authors for this very reason -- something is always going on. I'll read romance and historicals only if there's more to the story than facts and kisses.

Twists. Isn't it great when the author surprises you?

The hardest part of knowing what you like in a story is putting those things into your own book. I can be extremely picky when it comes to technique, but then I also have to be equally strict on myself. Which is good for my readers, but soooooo difficult for me!

Obviously I could yak on for ages. Guess I'll have to work on my long descriptions, Denise. ; )

At 7:54 PM, Blogger WK said...

I'm pretty like most everyone. It's pretty much the same as you've said. However historicals will probably always be my love, especially if they are Scottish set, or set in NC. But I enjoy a good contemporary now.

But I don't think I'm a book snob. I think I'll try just about anything within reason. I don't get women's fiction. I'm sorry I've tried but it makes no sense to me.

I think for me the biggest thing is I've got to feel for the characters, either with them, against them, for them, or something. But make me feel. Make me feel like I'm there with them, make me feel like I have to know how it ends.

That's the stories I love. The one that make me feel. But I find I usually enjoy a lot of books. And I read a variety of books.

I'm a mood reader as well. So if I'm not in the mood for a suspense it won't work for me.


At 7:56 PM, Blogger Colleen Coble said...

Well, Wendy, let's hope you're in the mood for a suspense when Anathema arrives! :)

At 9:23 PM, Blogger Ausjenny said...

Hey Aussie settings are good too!
I mainly read christian fiction.
I do like historical fiction set in the west along with lots of other books.

of course the aussies ones have to be authentic and not someones idea of what australia is unless they are doing a visiting one like the sisterchicks downunder which was really cool.

At 10:26 PM, Blogger Rachel Holliday said...

I wish I could actually stop reading a book if I am not enjoying it. I have this distorted sense of loyalty and feel that once I start a book, I HAVE to finish it. It is ridiculous, and I force myself to struggle through even if the story is driving me crazy.

At 11:01 PM, Blogger Julie Carobini said...

We probably all have some sort of criteria in which we use (subconsciously or not) to choose books. Frankly, though, I'd never have discovered one of my favorite authors if I'd stuck to my comfort zone. She's written 10 books and I own them all.

So I guess my perfect read is something that I end up loving even if I had to stretch myself to try it in the first place (which pretty much explains half of my book shelf, lol...)

At 11:27 PM, Blogger Timothy Fish said...

The premise is the main thing for me, so that goes right along with the back cover, which usually states the premise of the book. All good stories have a love story, but I don’t care for romance. The love story should stay in the subplot were it belongs. Bad language and graphic sex is a turnoff for me and I have yet to read a book that would have been helped by having it in it. While I love happy endings, on occasion, I like to read a book that ends in tragedy. For the most part, I don’t care for historical fiction, but I’ll make an exception for a good story. I don’t care for the present tense. I don’t care for puns. I don’t care for the dark tone that many Christian novels have taken. I don’t care for book series that overuse characters from the first book.

At 1:27 AM, Blogger Beth said...

I guess I am a book snob.
I mostly read Christian fiction these days, except for classic authors like Louisa May Alcott (not her mystery stories though), and L. M. Montgomery.

I'm not so fussed about the time period, although I would have to admit that I have more historical than contemporary novels on my shelves.

I like a little mystery or twist in the story.

Any Australian books that I can get my hands on I do (ok, so I'm a little biased there).

Old books, new books, it really doesn't matter as long as I can get it.

A happy ending is a must. Some kind of romance, even if it's only subtle is good.

I will try new authors, but won't pay a lot of money for a book by someone I haven't heard of before.

Any bad language and the book doesn't get finished (ok, I did finish one but it was the last page and the first objectionable word in the book).


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The Authors
Kristin Billerbeck
Kristin Billerbeck is a proud Californian, wife, mother of four, and connoisseur of the irrelevant. She writes Christian Chick Lit; where she finds need for most of the useless facts lulling about in her head.

Colleen Coble

Colleen Coble writes romantic suspense with a strong atmospheric element. A lovable animal of some kind--usually a dog--always populates her novels. She can be bribed with DeBrand mocha truffles.

Denise Hunter

Denise Hunter writes women's fiction and love stories with a strong emotional element. Her husband says he provides her with all her romantic material, but Denise insists a good imagination helps too.

Diann Hunt

Diann Hunt writes romantic comedy and humorous women's fiction. She has been happily married forever, loves her family, chocolate, her friends, chocolate, her dog, and well, chocolate.

Hannah Alexander

Cheryl Hodde writes romantic medical suspense under the pen name of Hannah Alexander, using all the input she can get from her husband, Mel, for the medical expertise. For fun she hikes and reads. Out of guilt, she rescues discarded cats. She and Mel are presently taking orders from four pampered strays.

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