Writing a bestseller is a dream of many of us who dabble with words, but what’s the secret to it? What makes a bestselling novel?
Wouldn’t it be great if we could read the minds of bestselling authors and find out how they create those worLds so many people get lost in? They surely dedicate a lot of time to writing, but also do a lot of research and editing. Naturally, they also plan the story and let it guide them after having an idea about how it will develop and what kind of characters it will include.
If that was all there was to it, wouldn’t it be easy to become a bestselling author? Of course not, so what makes a bestselling novel so appealing to so many readers?
1. Clarity and engagement
Most of the time, a bestseller is a book that you can’t put down and this is because it’s easy to read and yet vivid and specific enough to keep you engaged. It’s the kind of book you close a lot later than you planned to and eagerly anticipate reading again, even if you don’t want to. It just somehow grabs your attention and keeps you interested. One of the reasons behind this is that it’s at the same time easy to read and full of details and live characters. Of course, not everyone would agree on what kind of book they couldn’t put down but a bestseller is the kind of book that appeals to many.
2. Tension, intrigue, and controversy
Now, these things can mean different things to different readers as well as authors. Yet a bestselling novel needs to have some classic elements such as unattainable love, imminent danger, family secrets, crime, passion… What makes a bestselling novel is the tension the described scenes create in a reader, which makes him intrigued to resolve a certain mystery covered in controversy. Well, it’s not an exact bestseller recipe, but I think I’m getting close. Secret societies, strange circumstances, ghosts of the past, conspiracy theories, taboos, and dark topics aren’t uncommon in bestselling novels.
3. Difficult choices, a surprising turn of events, terrible consequences, and big challenges
A story that is familiar yet unique is what makes a bestselling novel. This is the book that needs to lead you to conclusions that you saw coming and surprise you with twists that you never would have anticipated. Maybe you will sense the twist coming but be surprised with how the writer resolved it, or the other way around. Either way, some things are common such as unexpected turns of events, big choices followed by terrible consequences, and challenges that are hard to overcome. Bestselling authors want us to cheer for their main characters and care for them but at the same time fear for their safety. They make us care for the characters by making them go through a lot and putting them in difficult situations.
4. Real characters with relatable struggles
You can have an elf having trouble with learning to play elf-boll, and it will still be a real character with a relatable struggle. Characters in bestselling novels need to be real so that the readers can care about them. This means that they need to have deep emotions, personalities, quirks, backstories, and everything else that makes them come to life. They need to go through struggles that people can relate to such as heartbreak, fear, disappointment, false hope, and guilt. These things don’t have to mean that the character needs to be the good guy in the story. Sometimes we’ll relate to a character that we hated at first because he stumbled upon a problem we’re familiar with and we won’t resist rooting for him.
5. High stakes and happy endings
You know that thing when everything is on the line, and there’s like a cliffhanger because a character you love is literally hanging off a cliff? Just as you think that this is it and it’s all over because Lucy’s fingers slipped and she’s starting to fall with her hand in the air…. Someone grabs it. It’s Mike. You knew it would be Mike, didn’t you? This is just a simple example of high stakes and happy endings, which are common in bestselling novels. I exaggerated a little, but exaggerating is also important when crafting a story that will hook a reader into it so that he holds on to the book tightly and brings it closer just to safely breathe out and close it knowing that everything is going to be just fine. Naturally, some bestselling authors say “to hell with the happy endings” and do the unthinkable. They let the high stakes harm the character, at which point they unpleasantly surprise you but intrigue you even more and have to make up for it further in the story.
6. Hooks and hints are what makes a bestselling novel an unputdownable page-turner
Great authors know how to make an entrance and make the beginning of the story get a reader interested enough to keep reading. They practically hook you into the world of their book with mysterious situations that you feel the need to figure out. For instance, one bestselling author started his book with the sentence “The building was on fire, and it wasn’t my fault”. The hooks aren’t just about situations and first sentences though. A bestselling novel has hooks throughout the book because we want to play detective and want to see if we can figure out what’s going to happen. Writers know this, so they sometimes surprise us with incredible plot twists and sometimes give us what we expected so that we wouldn’t feel disappointed. Throughout all this, they leave hints that sometimes guide and sometimes mislead us.
These 6 things are what makes a bestselling novel, but they’re not all and they don’t apply to every book. All novels are unique, and people decide on what’s worth purchasing and telling friends about. For so many people to do it, it has to be good. So, there’s only one entirely correct answer to what makes a bestselling novel – a good story that will get a lot of people interested in reading it from the beginning to the end.