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What Makes Something Good Fiction?

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Mon May 31, 2021 4:52 am
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Atticus says...

I'm curious to hear what you all think makes something "good fiction". What qualities must a good fictional piece have? In books that you've found impactful or powerful, what has made that book stand apart from subpar fictional books? Are there some pitfalls that ruin fictional works? Share your thoughts here! :D

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Tue Jun 14, 2022 1:27 pm
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Liminality says...

Here are my thoughts :D

- Concreteness: good fiction tends to have just enough detail to feel like the writer know what they're doing, or in any case, knows enough to build a story that sucks you in. The story has plenty of specifics that set it apart from other stories. (For example, it's been years since I last read Coraline but I still remember the phrase "chemical green" used to describe the taste of limeade, which I've never had before, but which I remember Coraline drank in the chapter before she goes to the Other Mother's house.)

- Convincingness: whatever that happens, the writer has to convince me that it did happen. This is especially difficult for absurdist fiction, methinks, but sometimes it works out. It could be something that shares broader cultural themes that I'm acquainted with and so feels 'real' to me. It could be something inspired and closely following what we know about the natural world through science. It could be a narrative of a particular people group or demographic. It could be a philosophical question or theme . . . There just has to be a bridge laid out from the familiar to the unfamiliar, the easily believable to the part where they have to convince the reader to believe. I will enjoy a story with a protagonist who has absolutely no idea what they're doing and no motivation for doing it if the writer can convince me that this somehow makes sense regardless.

-'Internal' consistency: good narratives are consistent with 'some' kind of system. It may not always be a system I'm familiar with, and I'm perfectly happy to call a novel good if I can tell there was some system there but I didn't feel at home in it throughout. Ideally, it doesn't contradict itself too much (but ah, that's hard, isn't it?) and it has enough bits and pieces that 'just fit', or could be made to fit in the mind of the reader, even if the writer hadn't intended it. (e.g. I don't know if there were supposed to be character parallels between the guardians + Madame and the three main characters in 'Never Let Me Go', but there were enough pieces to form a connection there and I thought it made the story special and elevated its themes of maturation.)

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