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Zee

What Makes a Story Memorable?

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Besides, (or maybe in addition to) the obvious things—well-written, interesting plot, realistic characters, what is it that makes a story stand out to you? What makes it the kind of story that sits in your memory for long after you’ve read it?

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Powerful voice. Read a few pages of a Kafka story. 

 

Poetic mystery. Tolkien had it. Ursula K. Le Guin as well. Their word choice is always superb.

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The works that are memorable to me are the ones I can relate to. When I see a main character about to make a mistake that I have made in my life, I can't put it down even as I'm yelling, "Don't do it!"

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The themes. The stories that I really love and remember long after I finished reading them have deep themes that are explored in its pages. They are the stories where the writer wasn't afraid of asking the big and scary questions. 

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I agree with Claire, Zee.  When all is said and done, the theme of a good story--even a great story--tends to resonate with me long after it's done.

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What sets the story apart. I remember reading two particular stories that had my eyes glued to the book. One was about the orphan train, and the other was a very interesting one about a girl who accidentally set something off that kept looping her last day of summer over and over again. So, she could basically re-live it and do different things. It was called "The First Last Day" by Dorian Cirrone. It was riveting!

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Characters. If they become real to me, they live with me forever and change me through their experience. 

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I think we all know (in general) what makes a good story. But what makes one story memorable, while another, that's equally well-written, fall into obscurity?

 

I have no idea. Although I'm beginning to suspect it has more to do with an effective marketing plan than anything else.

 

 

 

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Nah, it's a great theme, great characters, great plot and great descriptions.  And it greatly integrated story.  Marketing is far, far down the list.

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21 minutes ago, suspensewriter said:

Nah, it's a great theme, great characters, great plot and great descriptions.  And it greatly integrated story.  Marketing is far, far down the list.

 

There are over 10 million books for sale on Amazon today. If only one percent of them are considered well written enough to be "memorable," that's 100,000 books - more than one could read in a lifetime!

 

So I again try to make my case: What really made that book memorable? It's what put it, and not one of many others like it, in your hands - marketing. 

 

Well, that's what 10 years in the marketplace is starting to teach me, anyway.

 

 

 

 

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Posted (edited)

No, I don't think so Accord64.  Marketing only increases the chance will be read.  It has nothing to do with how good it is, only how many sales it has.

Edited by suspensewriter

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I have to agree with SW. Getting it into my hands does not make it memorable. 

 

I read The Robe nine times because it was memorable, not because I had it in my hands and no other book to read. 

 

What made it memorable? "a great theme, great characters, great plot and great descriptions.  And it greatly integrated story."

 

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55 minutes ago, suspensewriter said:

No, I don't think so Accord64.  Marketing only increases the chance will be read.  It has nothing to do with how good it is, only how many sales it has.

 

10 minutes ago, carolinamtne said:

What made it memorable? "a great theme, great characters, great plot and great descriptions.  And it greatly integrated story."

 

I totally understand your points. I also agree. However, something happened a few years ago that changed my thinking. A book came out that quickly soared to best-selling status. It really had no business being there. It was utter garbage, and very poorly written. But a unique marketing scheme propelled it into orbit, and established a new, popular sub-genera. Movies were made. Terrible movies, but they sold tickets and convinced enough people that this was memorable reading.  

 

What was this book? Fifty Shades of Grey.

🤮 🤮 🤮

 

So, I submit that the power of marketing can actually make a lousy book "memorable." Maybe not to us, but to enough (gullible) readers.

 

 

 

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I think that '50 Shades of Gray" was an eminently forgettable book.  But I agree that it sold a lot of copies.  Perhaps your feelings could be resolved if the term "Memorable" was replaced with "Sold a Lot of Copies!"

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I think we've determined that a memorable book requires a distinctive writing "voice," characters you can connect with, and most important of all, powerful themes powerfully expressed. Such a book would still be memorable (though certainly not popular) even if you were the only person who ever happened to read it.

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