Hubby was reading a fave Mercedes Lackey book yesterday for the umpteenth time. I’ve been debating signing up for the new 2yn class. This combination led into a discussion that resurfaced several times throughout the day: the question of what makes a certain novel, or more specifically series of novels or even worlds of novels eminently re-readable.
Now I know that not everybody re-reads novels. I always have. It may have something to do with the fact that I never lived within reach of a public library until I was an adult. Even my schools didn’t have libraries until I was in Junior High, but each classroom had a cupboard in the back with some books we could take home. So odds were that if I wanted to read (and I did) I was going to read something over again. Hubby didn’t grow up in as rural of places as I did, but reading was always his escape. He reads faster than I do (and I don’t read slowly) and a wider variety. He also re-reads.
And so we talked about the books that we re-read looking for common threads. Two authors that we both enjoy are Anne McCaffrey and Mercedes Lackey. I used to read through the entire Pern series every year. Lackey’s Valdemar series hasn’t received quite that much attention from me although I’ve read it twice. Most of her other series don’t catch my attention, but hubby will read anything she writes. Some things he came up with were 1) her voice. That may be obvious; if you read everything an author writes, obviously you like her or his style. That’s how I felt about McCaffrey for a long time, though I think there’s been some slippage in recent years. 2) Intelligent animals working in tandem with people, be they dragons, horses, gryphons, or hawks. 3) Music. I don’t think this one is as important for me as it is for Hubby., but then I’m not a musician or vocalist, and he is.
There’s something more, something intangible (at least so far) that keeps us coming back to certain worlds, certain authors. Obviously both of the above authors had to resonate with enough readers early on to create demand for more stories set in those worlds. And that brings me back to the 2yn. How can I create that kind of world? Something that draws people back over and over again? Something I could write in for many years and keep sparking demand for, and drawing new readers into? Is there a magic formula?
Some authors have what I consider a magic formula but don’t seem to catch on with the general public. In my opinion, Laura Resnick should be a household name. Her fantasy trilogy (published in 2000-2003) is set in one of the most complex worlds I’ve come across, with intricate built-in conflicts. It has all the hallmarks of great storytelling, and the worldbuilding is par none. Hubby didn’t finish the series.
Ann Marston wrote a great little double trilogy in an innovative world in a similar time period. I love them, but they’re out of print already. How many have heard of Ann Marston? How come her stories didn’t break out?
As a reader, how do you gauge a story’s power over you? If you re-read, can you figure out WHY that book, series, world, or author particularly calls you over and over again?
The real question is how to build that power into a story. That’s what is mulling in the back of my mind.