Thursday, September 17, 2009

What agents want: memorable 'stories or characters that gnaw at me weeks later'

Interesting exchange in an interview with an agent:
Q: What types of books are you looking for that you haven't found yet?

A: Despite the fact I read so much, I rarely find stories or characters that gnaw at me weeks later, and good literature should have that sort of staying power. Writing something memorable requires originality in voice, style and plot, but it also means tapping into the human consciousness and making readers feel something outside themselves. Cultivating that emotional investment simply requires a lot of talent, but real, relatable, and lovable characters are a good start.
That's about the size of it. But what alerted me to this interview was a statement the same agent made a few moments before:
2666 by Roberto Bolaño is a masterpiece -- but I wouldn't necessarily recommend emulating it. It's a novel that wouldn’t seem like it could work on paper -- I'd certainly have my doubts if it were pitched to me -- but it does because the writing is so strong. It is important to point out that even when dealing with higher concepts and more elusive goals, Bolaño's characters are still accessible, and that connection to the reader is the most important element.

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