Good novels have 5 essential elements

One of my absolute favorite feelings is the one I get when I become totally engrossed in a good book.

I?ve loved a good story ever since I was able to read. I remember becoming obsessed with ?The Boxcar Children? series in elementary school, which ultimately turned me into the bookworm I am today.

Along with reading a good story, I?ve also loved writing a good story from an early age. I would write Christ?mas plays for my family to perform at my grand?ma?s house each year and I wrote several short stories just for fun.

As I?ve grown older, that love for stories has translated into my dream to someday write a novel. Right now, that means I?m reading as much as I can and checking out some of my favorite author?s blogs. I?m discovering what works in novels and what doesn?t, and I?m beginning to think about the story I want to tell.

So, since March is National Reading Month, and since I?ve done a lot of reading over Christmas and spring breaks, here are a few of my thoughts about what I like about books and what I hate to love about books.

For inspiration, I?m using my two most recent reads, ?The Selection? series by Kiera Cass (my current favorite author), and ?A Katie Parker Produc?tion? series by Jenny B. Jones.

1. Characters that become my best friends. If I had to pick my all-time favorite thing about books, it would be that the reader can get inside the main character?s head and get a deeper view of the story, which isn?t usually possible in movies or TV shows.

By the time I finished the Katie Parker series, I felt I really knew Katie Parker. I loved her sarcastic sense of humor and I?d find myself thinking about how Katie would respond to things I would experience.

2. Book covers. A book cover can make or break a book. I know lots of people, including myself, who will initially pick a book based solely on the book cover. For some reason it?s as if the attractiveness of the book cover affects the quality of the author?s writing, when in fact I?ve read some amazing books with horrible covers.

Book covers with human models are especially tricky. I hate it when the person on the cover looks absolutely nothing like the person I have in my mind. It?s like every time I pick up the book I see this imposter who is trying to pose as the actual character.

3. Realistic plots, characters and settings. Obviously, one of the main purposes for reading a novel is to be told a good story. While I really enjoyed reading books like ?The Hunger Games,? I?ve never been a huge fan of dystopian novels because they often seemed so unrealistic. However, I absolutely loved the dystopian world Cass created in ?The Selection.? The government and history of the country seemed realistic and believable.

While crazy, out-of-this-world novels sometimes work for me, I think it?s important that plots be believable, characters be relatable and settings be realistic.

4. Cliffhangers. I really hate to love this slightly evil literary device. Cliffhangers get me every time, though. I usually read by chapter (for some reason it pains me to have to stop reading in the middle of a chapter). So when I?m sitting in bed reading before I go to sleep, I usually say to myself, ?I?ll finish this chapter and then go to bed.?

But of course, the chapter will end on a cliffhanger and I just can?t go to sleep without finding out what happens next.

Before I know it, it will be the wee hours of the morning and I?m still reading because the author is obviously trying to ruin my sleep schedule at the hands of a paperback.

5. Characters making dumb decisions. This seems to happen in every book I?ve read and that?s because it?s a good way to keep the plot moving. The main character doesn?t see what?s right in front of him or her or says or does something that totally negates all the positive things that had happened up to that point. It?s so frustrating.

There were so many times while reading ?The Selection? that I wanted to grab the main character and shake some sense into her. But honestly, without the things she did, the plot would?ve been a lot less exciting.

These dumb decisions actually make books even more realistic because they make the characters more human and more relatable.