The Whole Package Novel

books for blogMy recent post at Catholic Writers Guild blog is entitled “The Whole Package Novel.”

Are you currently writing a novel? If so, my previous post encourages you to read great books in order to be a better writer.

For me, as a novelist, my goal is to write novels that encompass the “whole package.” Admittedly, it’s an ideal that is difficult to attain. So what is the “whole package” in novel writing?

In my opinion, the best novels contain compelling “can’t put it down” unpredictable stories, brilliant character studies, believable dialogue and rich, variant language. The majority of contemporary books are not “whole package “ novels (although there are a few contemporary novels listed below).

Most novels tend to have one or two strengths but may be lacking in other areas. For example, Jodi Picoult’s books have brilliant character studies, narrative voices and crisp writing, but sometimes the stories are lacking. Mary Higgins Clark’s novels have great stories and a crisp writing style, but they’re usually formulaic.

Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell is one of those rare hard-to-find “whole package” novels: (Repeat from a previous post: I own a hard copy but downloaded this on Kindle for 1.99). This has become my favorite book of all time. Mitchell only wrote one novel in her lifetime, but it is the quintessential novel, especially if you enjoy historical romance. This book has it all: excellent, crisp writing, compelling story, intricate, believable and brilliant character studies and, most importantly, it is NOT formulaic. I don’t mind reading formulaic novels, but it’s more enjoyable for me to read a novel with unpredictable stories. The movie is a fair representation of the book, although reading the book offers richer character studies.

Reading and studying “whole package” novels will help novelists improve their writing.

Here are a few other “Whole Package” Novels:

The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger (This was also made into a movie, but I highly recommend you read the novel first. The movie is a fair representation of the book and I enjoyed both immensely.)

A High and Hidden Place by Michele Claire Lucas. My review is here. Excellent story, characters, writing.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. Many people don’t appreciate the rich, literary language of the early 19th century, but this is my favorite of Austen’s books. Austen’s books are rich in characterization, complex in storyline and her writing is exquisite. There are quite a few film adaptations; my personal favorite is this one with Keira Knightley.

One of Ours by Willa Cather (my review here)

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Most students will read and study this book at some point in their education. I read it first, in high school, then read it a second time when one of my sons was studying it. Again, Harper Lee only wrote one novel in her career and it was an incredibly moving one with rich characters, excellent dialogue, compelling story.

The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien: (The movie remains fairly faithful to the novels). Rich characters, beautiful writing, compelling story and symbolism all make this a whole package novel.

The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis: I read these books out loud years ago to my boys at night before they went to sleep. Highly recommend.

Do you have any favorite novels that encompass great storytelling, rich language, believable characters and unpredictable plot lines? Feel free to comment below!

copyright 2013 Ellen Gable Hrkach

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