"Fiction, nonfiction, picture books, easy readers . . . the great books come alive. They breathe. They lament. They stand up and cheer. And, whether I had intended or not, they pull me as editor, as reader, into their living world, allowing me to breathe and lament and stand up with them. The heart of a really good book beats.
Okay then, you might ask, what makes a good book's heart beat? There are more answers to the question than anyone can give in one morning, but I believe you give yourself a leg up in discovering the heartbeat, if as a writer you dare to look at life on a slant.
Readers do not want what is straightforward, understandable, four square, typical, sturdy, easy, predictable. No, I believe character and plot and setting and language—on a slant—is what readers thirst for. They are intrigued with what is odd, aberrant, offbeat, strange—for goodness' sake. And praise be!"
This tip comes from a talk given by Patti at the Highlights Foundation Writers Workshop at Chautauqua. If you'd like to learn from Patti in person, join us for the 2008 workshop. Find out more at www.highlightsfoundation.org.
(Patricia Lee Gauch is vice president and editor at large of Philomel Books as well as a respected author in her own right.)
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