The elusive difference between a good book and a great book.


WRITERS SPEND MOST of their waking hours looking for that missing link between a good book and a great book.

It’s fleeting.

It’s elusive.

It’s a mystery.

We know all about themes.

Books are about life and death, I say.

Books are about love and death, you say.

Books are about characters, I say.

Don’t worry about plots, you say.

The characters take care of the plots.

They always do.

On that we both agree.

So what makes one book better than another.

We’ve read a lot.

Mysteries keep us guessing until the very end.

Thrillers hold us in their terrible grip of suspense.

Science Fiction dares us to suspend our disbelief.

Romance makes us fall in love, or at least understand why others fall in love.

Ghost stories are disturbing.

Erotica is even more disturbing, although it seems that some authors these days are disguising erotica as fantasy romance, which, perhaps, makes it more acceptable in public.

Maybe I’m wrong.

I don’t know a lot about either, fantasy or erotica.

I have broken books up into two categories.

Those we can’t remember.

They are legion.

And those we never forget.

They are rare.

So what’s the difference between them?

I believe it comes down to one word.


It’s like the old song.

When you write, you gotta have heart.

You have to reach deep into a reader’s soul and touch an emotion.

A lump in the throat is good.

A tear is better.

And it doesn’t have to be a tear of sadness.

A great plot isn’t enough, no matter how many twists and turns it has, no matter how many puzzles are conjured up to confuse us.

Neither are great characters, and there have been some good ones. I just wish I could recall their names.

Action, no matter how exciting, can leave a reader cold.

But heart?

How do I feel about it?

In a good book, the reader hears the heart beat.

In a great book, the reader feels the heart beat.

It matches his own.

It matches her own.

And it keeps beating long after the last page is read.


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