I indulged in a guilty pleasure yesterday. I bought a paperback novel at the grocery store – with the grocery money. I know… taking food from the mouths of my overgrown babes to satisfy my fiction addiction.
The novel is the latest release in a series I’ve faithfully followed, written by an author I admire, even though she breaks all the “rules” I’ve been told to follow if I ever want to reach the end of the publication rainbow. But her books are more than books. They are stories.
Do you recognize the difference? Books are those inanimate things that sit on the shelf and gather dust. Stories are the living things that reach into your soul and move it temporarily out of this realm and into another, with characters as real as a childhood playmate, and settings that you’re convinced exist somewhere on the planet.
Children don’t clamor for just “another book” at bedtime; they beg for another story. Another pass through the magic wardrobe into an alternate world, just for a few moments before they face the reality of bedtime.
I listened to an interview with an editor at Harlequin/Silhouette recently. When asked what makes her select one manuscript over another, she gave the following (elusive) answer: “The manuscripts I buy have that certain something. A manuscript can be strong, good writing, but if it doesn’t have that certain something I don’t buy it.”
Me: (audible groan)
What IS that certain something? Can you define it? What transforms a generic book on a shelf into a beloved story that transcends time, culture, and location?