S.T.O.R.Y. – Five Factors Of Great Novels

Allen Arnold loves great stories, passionate
conversations and authentic living. As Senior Vice-President and Fiction
Publisher at Thomas Nelson, he spends his days acquiring, reading and
publishing world-class adult and young adult fiction written from a Christian
worldview. Allen’s favorite way to spend the day is with his family –
preferably with a C.S. Lewis book or Superman comic close at hand.
S.T.O.R.Y. – Five Factors Of Great Novels
Used with permission

You have so many
considerations as you craft your novel. My goal isn’t to add to the list – but
to raise five to the forefront. For our Fiction team, these are key elements we
discuss as we review proposals. Does your novel excel at all five?
 S = SHOW.
Show rather than tell. Don’t spell out what’s playing out. The joy of discovery
and savoring is depleted for the reader when themes are spoon-fed and
characters tell every thought rather than showing through their actions. It’s
story versus sermon. Trust readers to get the nuances of your story.
T = TRANSFORM. The
best stories leaves readers in a different place internally than they were on
page one. Does your novel call readers to something more, give them a hunger
for something greater? Christian Fiction, especially, should contain the major
theme of hope.
O = ORIGINAL.
Chasing a trend or trying to write like your favorite author never delivers the
anticipated results. Because the market already has that voice or that novel.
Only you can tell the stories God has given you. Rather than do a Christian
version of what is hot in pop culture, write with such originality that the
world wants to make a secular version of your Christian Fiction novel.
R = REAL.
Through focus groups, Christian Fiction readers tell us they don’t want sappy
(their word) stories. Regardless of the genre, they crave stories with real
emotion, real consequences, real outcomes. But don’t confuse authentic with
gratuitous. Real doesn’t mean scenes of over-the-top language or violence. The
Bible is filled with real stories that honor God without being gratuitous.
Y = YEARNING. When
a reader finishes the last sentence of your novel, the worst thing they can do
is toss it on the shelf and move on. That’s a symbolic yawn. How do you move
readers from a yawn to a yearning? Yearning to tell others about this story?
Yearning for your next novel?
These aren’t the only factors to a great
novel.  But they’re five big ones worth pondering.