What’s In It for the Reader? 5 Elements for a Compelling Novel
“We live in a golden age in which writers of any genre can be published,” says Marshall Chamberlain, an indie-publishing expert, self-described recluse and, by many standards, modern-day Renaissance man.
Readers want an experience that pleases and excites them to the degree that they don’t want to put the book down. This the author’s challenge, Chamberlain says.
In this digital age, around 30 percent of book purchases are ebooks. If an author can craft a good book, he or she can join the ranks of successful authors who publish independently and concentrate on ebooks. Just like the big boys, they can maintain control of rights and reap the rewards of 65 to 85 percent of sales.
“The catch is the book has to be good—only good,” says Chamberlain, the author of several books, including The Mountain Place of Knowledge, the first book in the Ancestor Series of adventure-thrillers, ( www.marshallchamberlain.com ). “Today, potential readers receive countless infotainment options. If you want them to invest hours of their life in your book, then you must offer what they are looking for—excitement and engagement that rivets their interest.”
If you’re thinking about writing a good book, Chamberlain uses examples from his works to illustrate five elements to include:
• The characters should speak to you. For example in Chamberlain’s Ancestor Series, a former Marine officer turned geology professor and a doctor in microbiology and computer science – a man and a woman - have personality traits many readers will relate to. They are unique and interesting — two stalwart individuals forced to confront and contend with romance, deceit, greed, violence and politics. These are problems every reader contends with in life.
• The setting should capture the imagination. Chamberlain’s latest adventure-thriller features vivid imagery inside secret chambers within a Belizean mountain where ancient technology is uncovered. This almost mythical setting is tempered by a style Chamberlain calls “plausible reality,” which empowers readers to suspend disbelief and connect with the excitement and mystery of discovery. It helps to have a stylistic flavor; in his case, a little Indiana Jones.
• The plot should keep readers turning the pages. The discovery of ancient technology that’s poised to have global implications, along with tensions between characters, are tandem plot elements that charge and maintain reader interest. A well-paced story, while hitting the right emotional beats, helps ensure readers stay engaged.
• Unique themes set a work apart from the competition. Themes should emerge for readers in a process of logical discovery. Chamberlain’s series utilizes a cocktail of genre twisting, including action, adventure, and thriller aspects, peppered with paranormal, metaphysical and sci-fi. This dynamic allows him to transcend the typical themes of individual genres and create compelling and unique books.
• Consider significance. What’s it all mean? Many writers are split two ways: one camp wants the reader to come away with a well-stated message while other writers are scattered as to intent in presenting meaningful take-away. Regardless, a good principle in creative writing as applied to characters, setting, plot, themes or significance, is to not simply tell readers, but to show them meaningful and exciting content that has the potential to trigger insight for living more fulfilling lives.
About Marshall Chamberlain: Marshall Chamberlain, author of The Mountain Place of Knowledge, the first book in the Ancestor Series of adventure-thrillers, ( www.marshallchamberlain.com ), is a man focused on his passions, with no time for pets, lawns, plants, puttering around or companion compromises. He has a Master’s Degree in Resource Development from Michigan State University and a graduate degree in International Management from the Thunderbird School near Phoenix, Ariz. He was an officer in the US Marine Corps and spent many years in investment banking, venture capital and even a stint as a professional waiter. He is obsessed with preparedness, survival and independence. This combination of traits and an unconditional openness to life lead him to all manner of adventure. Chamberlain’s primary worldview is simple but profound—“I’m in awe of the magnificence of this world.”