Seven essential elements of a bestselling novel

TypewriterThe ever-helpful Writer’s Digest fuels the imagination of aspiring authors with their handy checklist: Seven essential elements of a bestselling novel.

Some – like readability and reasons to care – are obvious.

Others, like seeking out controversy are interesting suggestions. The example provided uses as an example Scarlett O’Hara of Gone with the Wind. By any measure of imagination, Scarlett is a manipulative, shallow, and unlikable protagonist, who, nevertheless, all readers are rooting for in the end.

Scarlett herself is most likely modeled on Becky Sharpe, one of my favorite ruthless – and endlessly fascinating- protagonists. We watch her behaving deplorably throughout Vanity Fair, yet we’re drawn to her like a moth to the flame.

Sometimes characters in modern novels are so good and worthy, to make the readers relate to them and ‘like’ them more, that they become, well, ho-hum. So hats off to controversy.

Strangeness and nuanced uniqueness are also interesting elements to consider.

What do you think, readers and writers? Do you agree with these essential elements? Have some of your own to offer?

Bestselling novel or not, happy writing this August!



  1. sarabethpollock on August 22, 2014 at 7:08 am

    Reblogged this on Random musings.

  2. evelyneholingue on August 23, 2014 at 3:24 am

    I love the setting part in any novel. Sometimes I feel as if the setting is a character too. Maybe it is part of the “uniqueness.” In any case the setting makes the story unique. I also find the Writer’s Digest full of good, practical advice. Have you read the latest post on Mona’s blog about the WD conference she attended?
    Thanks, Kimberly.

    • kimberlysullivan on August 25, 2014 at 8:00 pm

      Oooh, I will read this. Thanks! Oh, yes. I love setting, too. Perhaps it’s a weakness of all traveloholics? But I love to feel as if I’ve been transported somewhere through a story.

      • evelyneholingue on August 26, 2014 at 12:38 am

        You’re welcome! Yes, people who travel pay attention to the setting, I’m sure.

  3. Robin Cohn on August 24, 2014 at 12:16 am

    Thanks for sharing this!

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