What Makes a Good Novel?

What makes a good or a great novel? Is it the characters, the setting, the plot, the dialogue, or the ending? It’s probably a combination of all of these things, and more.

I’ve always believed that a good novel has to have the following ingredients, regardless of what genre:
1. Interesting characters
2. An exciting plot
3. A great story
4. A great ending

Good dialogue is important too. It is how we get a glimpse inside a character’s head and a character’s heart. When dialogue moves us—and makes us smile, laugh, and/or cry—we feel a stronger connection to the story and the characters, which makes the book memorable.

What makes a novel bad? I guess the opposite of the above, right?
1. Boring characters
2. A boring plot
3. A bad ending

And a lot more…

When you find yourself skipping paragraphs and/or pages, chances are, you’re losing interest in the characters and/or the story. I’m sure that many of you have opened a book, started reading it and then midway through, closed the book and never finished it. Do you remember why you stopped reading? 

I do. I once read a story that seemed interesting enough to keep going. But when I got to the chapter where descriptions began to feel like the author simply wanting to show off her knowledge on history, even though it didn’t necessarily pertain to the story or to the protagonist, I closed the book.

Description is a vital part of a story. It is what paints the picture for the reader. It is what puts them in the mood and helps them see the story clearer. But when descriptions become too flowery or too detailed, I lose interest.

Last year, I began reading a novel that started off strong. A few pages in, I found myself skipping sentences and paragraphs. The author described too many mundane details I didn’t care for. I wanted to get to the story, but instead found myself skipping through sections about what the character ate for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Then what beer he bought, when and where he bought it, and how he sipped it. It was way too much. I stopped reading in the midst of chapter four.

So now I’d like to ask you a few questions about fiction. If you’d like to answer them, simply leave your answers in the comments section below:

1. What genre of fiction do you enjoy reading?

2. What is your favorite novel, and why?

3. Who is your favorite novelist, and why?

4. What makes you lose interest in a story?

5. What types of protagonists do you like reading about? Do you dislike?

6 What type of endings do you prefer (happy, tragic, sad, cliffhanger endings)?

7. What type of narration do you prefer (example: first-person or third-person)? Does it matter?

8. What novel(s) have you read more than once? Why?

Thanks for answering the questions.

Happy reading and writing!

A Quote

“You live like this, sheltered, in a delicate world, and you believe you are living. Then you read a book… or you take a trip… and you discover that you are not living, that you are hibernating. The symptoms of hibernating are easily detectable: first, restlessness. The second symptom (when hibernating becomes dangerous and might degenerate into death): absence of pleasure. That is all. It appears like an innocuous illness. Monotony, boredom, death. Millions live like this (or die like this) without knowing it. They work in offices. They drive a car. They picnic with their families. They raise children. And then some shock treatment takes place, a person, a book, a song, and it awakens them and saves them from death. Some never awaken.”
― Anaïs Nin, The Diary of Anaïs Nin, Vol. 1: 1931-1934

A Fun Afternoon

It was an honor to be part of the The Noe Valley Authors Festival last Saturday. I had a great time meeting other local authors and learning about their books. I also met people from the neighborhood who stopped by my table to purchase books, while others simply came by to ask questions about writing and publishing. I was happy to answer their questions and even share some tips.

The festival was three hours long. It was enough time for us to meet and greet folks and sell our books. It was indeed a fun afternoon. I can’t wait to join other author events in the near future.


Top left: me and author, Peter Gabel, top right: me and author, Marie D’Abreo, bottom left: me and author, Michelle Diaz Cannon, bottom right: me and author, Sara Oletti

Check out the list of authors who came to the festival. Take your time and click on the links below. I’m sure you will find something that will interest you. :)

Author: Michael Alenyikov
Books: “Ivan and Misha”
Winner of the Northern California Book Award
Finalist for the Edmund White Award for Debut Fiction
Awarded the 2013 Gina Berriault Award from San Francisco State

Word madness is a hallmark of the writing: lyrical descriptions of place, time, and events; touches of the bizarre; everyday humor; and a love of New York from Brighton Beach in Brooklyn to the gentrifying East Village delight with their clarity and detail. Written with sweetness, compassion, and great beauty, this book will have broad appeal to lovers of short fiction and literary writing.

“Ivan and Misha” is the Great American Russian Novel told as Chekhov would tell it, in stories of delicacy, humanity, and insight. From Kiev to Manhattan, Brighton Beach, and Bellevue, Michael Alenyikovsky lays out a series of compelling arguments for brotherhood between brothers, between lovers, between men from an old country. Alenyikov confronts big subjects–illness and madness, sex and love in the age of AIDS, Old and New World values, a fallen wall, the metaphysics of survival, the march of generations.” — Carolyn Cooke, author of The Bostons and Daughters of the Revolution


Author: Michelle Cannon
Books: “Ben Not a Puppy!” and “Remember When?”

Author: Marie D’Abreo
Book: “Beautiful: A girl’s trip through the looking glass”

Author: Peter Gabel
Books: “Another Way of Seeing” and “The Bank Teller”
Available at Folio Books
3957 24th Street, San Francisco

Books also available on Amazon

Author: Tom Graves
Book: “Twice Heroes: America’s Nisei Veterans of WWII and Korea
Interviews and 98 portraits of men and women who fought for America while their families spent the war in internment camps.

National Japanese American Historical Society
1684 Post Street, San Francisco
(415) 921-5007

Kinokuniya Books
1581 Webster Street, San Francisco
(415) 567-7625

Online: www.TwiceHeroes.com

Author: Chester Hartman
To order books, email author at: chartman@prrac.org

Author: Kathleen Knowles

Author: Sheppard Benet Kominars
Book: “Portal Poems: Perspectives on Aging”
Senior Years Are the New Frontier in the 21st Century. The moment you pass through this portal, finding a new compass to navigate is a task that must be initiated. Portal Poems offers valuable insights into this new territory in which the Old Rules have changed and new ones need to be discovered. What better way than through the poetry of someone who has lived it?

You can purchase Portal Poems online through GoodSheppardBooks.com and the Kindle edition is now available on Amazon. www.portalpoems.com

Author: Richard May
Book: “Ginger Snaps: Photos & Stories of Redheaded Queer People”
Available at Folio Books
3957 24th Street, San Francisco

Author: Mary Jo McConahay
Book: “Maya Roads: One Woman’s Journey Among the People of the Rainforest”

Author: Rebecca P. McCray
Book: “The Journey of the Marked”

Author: Vincent Meis
Book: “Down in Cuba”

Author: Sara Oletti
Book: “The Kitchen Book for Girls Who Think They Can’t Cook”

Author: Dan Richman

Author: Bruce Rogers
Book: “The Orchid Whisperer”

Author: Julianne Victoria


2014 Noe Valley Authors Festival

One of my favorite neighborhoods in San Francisco is having an Authors Festival. I’m so excited to announce that I will be joining local authors on Saturday, March 22. Each author will have their own table where folks can purchase books and meet the authors. I will be there with signed copies of my novel, “HIGH”, and my children’s book, “Goodnight World”.

There will be door prizes every 30 minutes, plus lots of giveaways. If you’re in the area, please come by and say hi! Hope to see you there.

What: Noe Valley Authors Festival
When: Saturday, March 22, 2014, from 2-5 p.m.
Where: Alvarado Elementary School, 625 Douglass St., Noe Valley (between 22nd St. & Alvarado St.)
Street parking only
Follow signs to the Cafeteria