Thursday, March 24, 2016

3 Things I Love in a Good Story // Emma Jane

from Emma Jane

1. Sparkling Dialogue

I’m really not sure why I used the word ‘sparkling’ -- it may or may not be the best choice for what I mean, but it just popped into my head and I thought, why not. ;-P What I really mean is dialogue, and I didn’t want to just say ‘good dialogue’ because that’s boring and I’m pretty sure everyone would say the same thing.

Besides characters, dialogue is probably the most important thing in a story for me -- in fact, it’s what defines the characters. Dialogue is what shows you how the characters think, how they interact with each other. It’s very important that it be realistic and have a natural flow to it; it’s got to sound like how people really talk. One thing that really bothers me about dialogue in a lot of books (mostly adult books, I’ve noticed) is when the characters say things to each other for the sole purpose of informing the reader of what’s going on -- you know they wouldn’t say that to each other, they’re only saying that because the author wants you, the reader, to know. That seems lame to me. If characters talk to each other in an honest, easy way, that really draws me in, and I feel more connected to them. It’s the same with movies.

Some examples of Books With Exceptional Dialogue: True Grit by Charles Portis (DUH DUH DUH); The Lizzie Searches for Love series by Linda Byler (which are pretty much the sweetest books on the planet); Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry (or anything by Larry McMurtry, for that matter) 

2. Original description 

I love analogies, and metaphors, and all kinds of yummy descriptions. Admittedly, I’m not a huge fan of extensive description -- I could do without thirty pages about the history of bombs, Mr. Victor Hugo -- but if the author has an insightful way of looking at things and a creative way of describing things, then give it to me, baby! I say ‘original’ because I tend to get annoyed with an author if they keep using a certain word to describe something that I’ve seen countless authors use for the same thing. I love it when authors come up with their own -- it shows great imagination. (Depending on what kind of book it is, I might even go with made-up words, but very rarely. ;-P) 

So yes, I love creative description, but in moderation. I don’t need to know everything; I want to be able to imagine a fair bit of it for myself. 

Some Examples of Books With Refreshing Description: Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery; the Sarah, Plain and Tall books by Patricia MacLachlan; the Songbird series by Sara Evans and Rachel Hauck 

3. Strong Bonds Between Characters 

I’ve noticed a pattern in books and movies I especially adore, and it usually has something to do with strong relationships between the characters. By this I mean, characters who care about each other, who sacrifice things for each other. This also goes with Strong Characters in General, I suppose. And most of my favorite stories have some kind of strong bond between siblings, between married people, between friends, or even between a crazy trigger-happy grandma and a shy granddaughter. (I love you, Richard Peck.) What’s even more fun is if it’s an unexpected bond, one that grows stronger through the course of the book/movie/whatever. 

Some examples: August King and Annalees in The Journey of August King; Paul McLean and Normal McLean in A River Runs Through It (THAT MOVIE THOUGH); Gus McCrae and Woodrow Call in Lonesome Dove (seriously, don’t get me started); Orry Main and George Hazard in North and South (the most epic friendship ever recorded on screen); Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday in...well, real life, and Wyatt Earp and Tombstone; Mary Alice and Grandma Dowdal in A Year Down Yonder; Cabot Murray and Eden Day in Yankee Stranger; Anne Shirley and Gilbert Blythe in the Anne books; Atticus Finch and Scout Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird; Simon Birch and Joe what’s-his-name in Simon Birch; and on and on….

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

~     ~     ~ 

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. Thanks so much, Heidi! This was fun. :-)

    1. Emma Jane,
      Awww... you're welcome and thank you so much again for sharing! I love your points! ;)

  2. This WAS fun, Emma. And like, I agree on all three points which is pretty amazing, right? Sparkling Dialogue makes me super happy (unlike some of the dialogue in say, the Elsie books. Snort snooooorty.) You are really good at Sparkly Dialogue, by the way. Just complimenting you out of the blue. :-)

    As you know, I'm a HUUUUGE fan of Original Description. LMM is my favourite author, duhhh.
    And "Depending on what kind of book it is, I might even go with made-up words, but very rarely. ;-P" <<< HAHA. :-D

    Oh yes, I hate it when there are books with 'friends' that don't seem like friends at ALL. Strong bonds are important. ATTICUS AND SCOUT. GAHHH.

    Loved this!
    ~ Naomi

    1. You're right, that IS amazing. That we should AGREE on something. *stares in awe*

      (I'm kidding, you know that, right? ;-P)

      Yes, I know you are a huge fan of original description. I can tell when I read your stories. ;-) REALLY? Thank you! That's seriously my biggest goal -- to write good dialogue. Ironic, isn't it, since I've never been very good at talking.

  3. YES TO EVERYTHING. I love how you gave examples for each one :)

    Especially the dialogue and the description--those are super important for me in a story, too. But then again, so are strong bonds :D

  4. Great post, Emma! I love the "unexpected bonds" theme too :-) Like in Star Wars, the friendship between Luke Skywalker and R2-D2 . . . who is actually a robot, but YES HE IS STILL CAPABLE OF FRIENDSHIP and I will fight anyone who says he is not. ;-)

  5. I love all three of your points, Emma! I agree completely. I'd say more but I'd really just be repeating what you already said. :)


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