Friday, August 23, 2013

"What Makes Favorite Authors Stand Out"

My title is a quote from "The ABC's of Historical Fiction" found on Mary K. Todd summarized a survey she did in 2012. She interviewed the top 40 favorite authors gleaned from 800 different names mentioned by readers taking part in the survey. Based on Todd's analysis and her own reading she compiled a list of ingredients which make these authors stand out.

I found that the bold topics in this list could apply to most genres we choose to write in so I quote them (slightly abridged) below for your individual interpretation. They should make you think about your own books in terms of the qualities the surveyed authors possesed.
  • Superb writing: This covers prose, pacing, emotional resonance, plot twists and entainment value.
  • Dramatic arc of historical events: In essence, real authors are masters in selecting what H. Mantel calls 'the dramatic shape in real events'.
  • Characters both Heroic and Human: Readers want to experience believable characters complete with doubts and flaws.....
  • Immersed In Time and Place: Activating all senses, authors transport readers to another era from the very first paragraph
  • Corridors of Power: ......Best selling novels expose the structure, corruption and machinations of monarchy, military,religion, law.....
  • Authentic and educational: Readers love to learn. the hallmark of a top Historical fiction author is meticulous research followed by carefully chosen information to create a seamless blend
  • Ageless themes: Favorite historical fiction dramatizes thought-provoking theories as important today as they were long ago
  • High Stakes: Life, kingdoms, epic battles, fortunes, marriage, family. Characters risk on a grand style
  • Sex and Love: Men and women from long ago rarely chose their partners. Women were pawns. Favorite authors incorporate conflict in their stories
  • Dysfunctional families: Kings beheading queens, brothers killing brothers, rivalry between father and son, wives banished away, these are merely a few examples of dysfunctional family life that are subjects of successful historical fiction
Until next time may all of our words, written and spoken, touch and inspire readers of all genres.


Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Mary,

This is very helpful information. I couldn't help thinking about The White Queen, Phillipa Gregory's novel, now part of an historical series on STARZ. I watched Episode 2 yesterday and was completely caught up in the historical pageant. Although a reviewer for The New York Times commented that he preferred Game of Thrones, I don't agree. I believe the real history as viewed from the women's viewpoint instead of the men makes for interesting reading and viewing.

Susan Oleksiw said...

This is a fascinating list for all of us to use as we work on our stories. The list brings to mind the most successful books of the day but not necessarily Agatha Christie or P.G. Wodehouse. Still, there's much here to think about, and I plan to reread the list several times and ponder each item.

Alice Duncan said...

Interesting post. In thinking about it, it seems to me that the books that stick with me forever are those with really engaging characters involved in interesting things. Bad grammar can turn me off, but sometimes wooden writing (I'm thinking of THE ALIENIST, by Caleb Carr here) doesn't deter me. So I guess it's the characters and the story that suck me in.

Mary f. Schoenecker said...

thanks toJacquie,Susan, and Alice, Ifor sharingI I,m happy that the list was helpful toall. It was a keeper for me,