November 11, 2014

What Makes A Good Book?

How Important Is Character Development?

Since books have been written, and especially since “bestsellers” have been on the minds of publishers, almost everyone has tried figuring out what makes a good book.

Some people swear it’s plot—that a well-developed mystery with a few good twists will keep readers turning pages. Others swear that character development is the key—the glue that holds it all together. And there is a segment of the analysts who insist it is neither plot nor character development, but storytelling that drives word of mouth, and therefore, sales.

Regardless of what it is, it doesn’t seem to be the same thing for all people. Take a look at the books on top of the list of bestsellers and you’ll find the reviews often have more conflict than the books. I just checked Gone Girl, which has been lingering near the top of the list for a long time. It has an astounding 29,000+ reviews on Amazon, and more than 4,600 of them are either one- or two-star reviews. That means that for every three people who felt the book was fantastic, another person thought it was garbage.

So, who is right?

Nobody’s right. And everyone is right. Different books appeal to different people. Look at some of the other bestsellers and you’ll see what I mean.

Divergent (book one in the series) got almost universally rave reviews, but Allegiant (book three), received more than 4,600 one- and two-star reviews out of 14,000+. Far worse than Gone Girl fared. And Fifty Shades of Grey had almost 10,000 one- and two-star reviews out of a total of 27,000+.


What does that tell you?

Nothing, except that something in those books got people talking. Some conflict made people think and discuss the books, which in turn drove sales. Once a book crosses a certain threshold, it doesn’t matter whether it is loved or hated, as long as people are talking about it.

What Is It That Makes You Buy The Next Book?

Or put a book down?

  • What makes you stay up late reading, even when you’re tired?
  • What makes you eager to pick up the book and start reading again?
  • What makes you put a book down, and quit on it?
  • What are your pet peeves?

It seems more and more difficult to write a book today that is considered realistic without resorting to foul language. What do you feel about that?
What are your thoughts about violence in books?

Do you like books where the killer is known up front, or where you have to guess who did it?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Leave a comment or drop me a line.

If you enjoyed this post, please share.

Giacomo Giammatteo is the author of gritty crime dramas about murder, mystery, and family. And he also writes non-fiction books including the No Mistakes Careers series.

He lives in Texas where he and his wife have an animal sanctuary with 45 loving “friends.”

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  • This blog will be a little different from many you see. Contrary to the characters in my books, I don’t really kill people, or catch those who do, so the blogs might be about reading, or writing, or animals. These are the things I have great passion for. It might also contain posts about food, or ancestry, or substance abuse. My oldest son is a great cook. My daughter is a genealogist ( and my youngest son is a recovering drug addict. He has been clean for three years, and runs a rehab center (

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