As you would probably hope from someone who loves to copy edit manuscripts, I’ve read A LOT of books. I couldn’t speculate a number. I’ve read for as long as I can remember, but I can’t recollect everything I’ve ever read. I find this pretty annoying, I’d love to be able to clearly recall all the books, but I guess my memory can only hang on to so much. I’ve been reflecting on what makes a book memorable for me. What makes these books stand out as opposed to others? Why do I love some books enough to reread them, when others (even though I may have appreciated them) don’t reach that pedestal? I want to explore this topic a little more, to help my writing and yours.
There is so much power in writing. Power to make you think, be inspired, cause emotion and help you learn. How do we guarantee that our words are powerful enough to do this, in a way that stands out memorably?
Firstly, I seem to always remember books that have brought something unconventional or distinctive to my world. I’m lucky because I enjoy reading pretty much all genre’s. Within genres though, I find that sometimes I end up reading books with similar storylines. This might be because I’m influenced by what might be popular currently. But I do find that books which brake out of the norm stand out more. I love discovering something unconventional, something that isn’t like anything else I’ve ever read. That’s what can stand out to me. Discovering these new and different things can provide us with a tremendous amount of motivation to break away from the trends ourselves. The authors who create something unique, imaginative and striking are the ones I aspire to.
Sometimes it’s the characters that make a story stand out. In the case of a protagonist, they might be a person that’s good to the core, universally likable, witty, extremely brave or clever. Something about their background and character arc makes me root extra hard for them. They may have qualities, flaws or a personality that I can associate with, and that then forges a kind of bond, leading to a reading experience I won’t forget.
The antagonist usually does the opposite. They make me feel angry or disgusted and do things that astound me. They’re the people who may be truly evil, and they induce conflicts and trouble for the protagonist we root for so much. They can cause a story to stand out because of the level of dislike we develop for them, or because of the way that the plot is affected by their corrupt actions.
It can be the world the story takes place in that stands out to me. Settings that have been written so vividly and imaginatively that I picture them clearly in my mind. They can obviously be entirely made-up, or an already existing place; maybe one I already love or one I want to visit. Wherever it is, it feels tangible. If a writer has been able to paint a picture in my mind, it usually helps the story to stand out and be memorable. I love visualizing the world I’m reading about, getting a little immersed and lost within it. When I read, sometimes I just want to be transported away, and I want to forget my own troubles for a little while. When I find writing that does this, it’s wonderful, and I cherish the experience more.
A book may also have a storyline that twists and turns in such a way that I’m continually kept on my toes, enthralled in the unraveling plot. A well-paced storyline is important because you want readers to remain intrigued. By having intrigue, your story should stand out and have an impact.
I always remember books more when they’ve touched my heart or soul, making me feel profoundly. I do like a book that causes emotion, whether that be excitement, giddiness or sadness. I’ll admit that I usually cry pretty easily, but I do find that it takes a well-written book to make me cry and cry properly, feel sadness in a way that means that I have to pause for a little while, even though I want to carry on. A book that makes me cry sticks in my mind because it’s affected me and made me think or feel deeply enough to shed tears. It can be books based around events and times in humanity that I wish could have never happened. It can be events or relationships that I personally relate to. Think about how you can effectively place emotion throughout your book, how do you want the reader to feel and what will accomplish that? How can your storyline and character arcs evolve to cause your readers to care deeply?
I do like a good twist in a story, especially a totally unexpected one. I love to be shocked sometimes, I love to read something believing it’ll go one way to find it goes another. It can be so exciting never quite knowing everything until that big reveal. If we can put something into writing that causes someone to gasp or shout out loud in shock, then it should stick in someone’s mind. If you can put a twist in your book that’s written cleverly enough for readers not to see coming or guess, then it should give that wanted reaction. Would an unexpected twist or reveal fit within your book?
There are obviously a fair few ways a book can become memorable for me, and that’s great for me to know, because it allows me to think more critically about how my own writing can stand out. I’d like to hope that I could put some of my reasons into practice. I can put good planning into place so that in the future I could possibly provide bold, imaginative writing which creates intrigue and inspiration so that it remains memorable. It allows me to think more about how I can help writers I work with to have stories that will be memorable too. I’d love for this post to have inspired you as well with your own writing.