Allen Arnold loves great stories, passionate conversations and authentic living. As Senior Vice-President and Fiction Publisher at Thomas Nelson, he spends his days acquiring, reading and publishing world-class adult and young adult fiction written from a Christian worldview. Allen’s favorite way to spend the day is with his family – preferably with a C.S. Lewis book or Superman comic close at hand.
S.T.O.R.Y. – Five Factors Of Great Novels
Used with permission
You have so many considerations as you craft your novel. My goal isn’t to add to the list – but to raise five to the forefront. For our Fiction team, these are key elements we discuss as we review proposals. Does your novel excel at all five?
S = SHOW. Show rather than tell. Don’t spell out what’s playing out. The joy of discovery and savoring is depleted for the reader when themes are spoon-fed and characters tell every thought rather than showing through their actions. It’s story versus sermon. Trust readers to get the nuances of your story.
T = TRANSFORM. The best stories leaves readers in a different place internally than they were on page one. Does your novel call readers to something more, give them a hunger for something greater? Christian Fiction, especially, should contain the major theme of hope.
O = ORIGINAL. Chasing a trend or trying to write like your favorite author never delivers the anticipated results. Because the market already has that voice or that novel. Only you can tell the stories God has given you. Rather than do a Christian version of what is hot in pop culture, write with such originality that the world wants to make a secular version of your Christian Fiction novel.
R = REAL. Through focus groups, Christian Fiction readers tell us they don’t want sappy (their word) stories. Regardless of the genre, they crave stories with real emotion, real consequences, real outcomes. But don’t confuse authentic with gratuitous. Real doesn’t mean scenes of over-the-top language or violence. The Bible is filled with real stories that honor God without being gratuitous.
Y = YEARNING. When a reader finishes the last sentence of your novel, the worst thing they can do is toss it on the shelf and move on. That’s a symbolic yawn. How do you move readers from a yawn to a yearning? Yearning to tell others about this story? Yearning for your next novel?
These aren’t the only factors to a great novel. But they’re five big ones worth pondering.