Thursday, November 12, 2015

3 Things I Love in a Good Story // Jessica Prescott

from Jessica Prescott 

1. Female characters I can respect and admire. 

This is extremely important for me—a novel whose female characters I find myself unable to truly admire will never make it onto my “favorites” list. Obviously, I’d like to be able to respect the male characters, too; but the female characters are even more important to me—mostly because I’m a woman and I gotta have me some role models, peoples. 

The heroines I admire and respect most are those who possess the following three qualities: good sense, kindness, and patience. Kindness and patience are particularly important—I’m all for “spirited” female characters, but only if “spirited” isn’t just another term for “needlessly belligerent.” I get especially irritated by heroines who seem to spend the entire first half of the novel quarreling with the hero whenever they’re on stage together. Really, that’s just unnecessary. And unkind. (And yes, Lizzy Bennet, I’m talking to you.) 

2. Romantic relationships that I can get behind. 

Like most female readers, I tend to get very heavily invested in fictional romances—and for this reason, it’s important to me that these relationships be ones which I can wholeheartedly support and approve of. This not only means they must be clean and wholesome (no messing around before the marriage, please, thankyouveryverymuch), but it also means there must be solid evidence that the two people truly care about each other and actually have a good chance of forming a compatible partnership. If these requirements are not satisfied, I’m quite likely to toss the book aside in disgust.

For instance, I just finished reading an Agatha Christie novel in which the main female character spent most of the book wavering between two suitors—one of whom I loved (because he was awesome) and the other one I hated (because he was horrible). And for the last third of the book, I was in mortal terror that she was going to pick the awful one and be miserable for the rest of her life. Now of course, Agatha Christie being Agatha Christie, she kept me hanging until the very last page, when the girl finally decided to marry the nice guy—and I was like, “thanks, now I can breathe again.” 

3. Vivid sensory description. 

Ever since I was a small girl reading Little House and Heidi, I’ve absolutely loved those writers who can manage to paint a beautiful, delightful, scrumptious picture using only the power of words. I think that’s really one of the main reason I read—for those moments when the author makes you see something in your mind as vividly as if he or she were showing you an actual photo. 

Ironically, sensory description is one thing I’m not terribly good at in my own writing—but I certainly know how to appreciate it in other authors. Some of my absolute favorite examples of this are in Willa Cather’s novels Death Comes For the Archbishop and Shadows On the Rock. There’s one special description of a sunset in Shadows that you could literally live on for a week. I think that’s the kind of thing Emily Dickinson was talking about when she wrote that famous poem of hers: “He ate and drank the precious words / His spirit grew robust / He knew no more that he was poor / Nor that his frame was dust . . .”

Note from Heidi: Thank you so much for sharing, Jessica! :)

~     ~     ~ 

And... would you like to share three of your favorite things in a guest post? You don’t have to be a writer to qualify! This series is by story lovers for story lovers.
For post specifics/guidelines you can see the initial post here, then send Heidi a quick email at ladyofanorien(at)gmail(dot)com. Don’t be shy. I’d love to have you!


  1. Goodness, that Agatha Christie book sounds "annoying" to read. :-) I hate it when the heroine can't see WHO's the nice guy. Like, JUST THINK. :-D

    Yesss, I agree especially with your last point. I myself yearn to do that well. :-) To paint a picture with words.

    ~ Naomi

    1. Thanks for commenting, Naomi! Yes--I actually enjoyed the book quite a lot, but only because it turned out OK in the end. If it hadn't, I would have been furious. No kidding. And yeah . . . wavering is annoying . . . like, that's one of the things that makes me not-such-a-huge-fan of Anne Shirley. Because she WAVERS. Between Gilbert and that other Annoying Guy. And I just shake my head and sigh. ;)

      I know, right? I want to do it too . . . and I think I'm getting a bit better at it . . . but it's not easy. So I really admire writers who CAN do it and do it well.

  2. Yay! Your answers! Although of course I've already read them :P

    But I just reread them anyway. And I LOVE ALL YOUR POINTS. I think for me your first point is like themostimportantever in a story. Even before the good-romance thing. Because when I read a book, it's the female character that I try to relate to. *Obviously* But really, the good heroine is the most important thing. If I like the girl, then I'm "invested" in the story, and can follow her through the plot twists. But if I don't like her - watch out, book, you may soon be thrown aside like a - like a - soiled glove :P

    1. Yay!!! I'm so happy you like them! (Although I know you liked them before, too ;) )

      Exactly. "Like a--like a--I shall be forgetting my own name next--like a SOILED GLOVE." :) But yeah, I think it's probably the most important thing for me, too. Guess that's why it's at #1--I wasn't really *trying* to put them "in order of importance" but I think I did anyways, haha.

  3. YESH. THE NEEDLESSLY BELLIGERENT HEROINES. (Great way of putting that, by the way!) Someone else doesn't love Lizzy?! I'm not alone in that?! Yippee!:D Haha, no, I'm sure there are lots of people who don't adore her, but it seems like a lot of people do. You know.

    "I need me some role models, peoples." Heehee;)

    Good romances are so important! Like, y'know, the ones that AREN'T based on physical attraction and therefore DON'T spend every other page ooh-ing and ahh-ing over her lips and his biceps. (Lookin' at you, Christian fiction romance.)

    And I love vivid descriptions, too!:)

    Fantastic list, Jessica! Loved it:)

    1. Whoa. WHOA. You feel the same way about Lizzy, TOO? Okay, we must share a brain. It's official.

      YES! It's not like I hate her, you understand, or even "dislike" her--I think she has a lot of good qualities, like being strong and smart and loyal and knowing what she wants--but there quite a few things about her that Annoy Me. She's too hasty, for one thing . . . and she's really kind of sharp-tongued and even unpleasant sometimes. She didn't need to spend all that time arguing with Darcy. She REALLY didn't. When I read P&P for the first time and I got to the part where she gets Darcy's letter and finally admits he isn't so bad after all, I was like, "YAYYYYYYYYY!"

      So yeah. She's not awful or anything, but she sure isn't my favorite literary heroine. I kind of think of her as a "rough diamond", you know what I mean? And rough diamonds aren't really my thing. I'm much, much fonder of Fanny and Elinor and Anne Elliot.

      Yesssssssssss . . . Like, seriously, physical attraction IS an important part of romance, but that's not ALL there is to it, and we sure don't need to be harping on that ALL THE TIME. Oh, I know--Christian romantic fiction can be soooooooooo annoying sometimes. With some of it, you just look at it and you're like, "Um, excuse me? You call THAT 'Christian'?"

    2. I think we do share a brain;)

      Yeah! I don't DISlike Lizzy (well, not much anyway), but I don't really LIKE her either. I'm rereading the book, and I still just can't decide about her. There are things I like about her and things I don't. Of course, I don't really like Darcy either...*cough*

  4. Oh, these are such great points!!!
    I agree. Having a heroine I admire is very important. I can't stand heroines that are really weak and usually there for no other reason than the romantic aspect (cough, looking at a John Wayne movie I just watched cough) or, on the other end of the spectrum are really annoying and independent in a bad way.
    Although...I can't agree about Lizzy Bennet. :P

    Oh, I loved #2!!! So true. I just agree with everything you said there. :)

    I too love sensory description. Really well done description just puts you right into the's so real and wonderful!

    1. Thanks so much for commenting, Natalie! I know--the really weak heroines are also super-annoying. That's not what it means to be a "real lady," at all! (Speaking of which--I LOVED your "How Not To Be A Lady" post. Specially Lydia ;) )

      Hey, that's okay, we don't have to agree about Lizzy :) After all, everybody's different, no? Like I said, I do respect and admire her good qualities. She just . . . is not my Very Favorite.

    2. Jessica,
      Aww, thank you so much! I'm so glad you enjoyed it!

      Very true! :) And oh yes, I don't mind at all that you don't like Lizzy. If we all liked the same thing, the world would be very boring indeed. :)

    3. Right! Variety is, as a wiser soul (aka my mother) always tells me, the "spice of life." :)

  5. Jessica, I love your answers! They're so very different from my own, and I find that extremely helpful, as a writer.

    I have this utter loathing and disdain for what I call "unsupportive characters," especially female ones. I don't mind if they're bossy or quarrelsome, but if they continually undermine the interests and desires of the person they love, I'm done with them. A really supportive one, though, will earn my undying love. Like Rebecca Reid in The Lone Ranger (2013) who never complained about her husband being gone on Texas Ranger business or having to work hard and go without luxuries. Even if her life wasn't what she'd expected or hoped for, she didn't blame him or whine, not once.


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