What constitutes a really great work of fiction?

We have all done it, set down eagerly to read a new book and come away disappointed after the first few pages. It is not easy to create a gripping tale, but when an author gets it right, the result is priceless. This got me thinking about the characteristics that are actually found in a really great book, one that keeps you on the edge of your comfortable seat and reduces your ability to do anything else with your day.

I would argue that the mark of a great novel is that it entertains you from the first page. It grabs hold of your imagination and reels you in with every word, not letting go until the last sentence. As a writer, this is not something that you can easily learn how to do, but is rather a skill that comes naturally, like being able to read people’s reactions in partypoker and seeing through their bluffs. When a writer is able to grab your attention, you will get that type of rush that is often quite hard to find.

A great work of fiction should also be able to surprise you. You don’t want to be reading something that is predictable and boring, as it will lose its entertainment value. So a good few twists and turns that will keep readers interested is ideal.

Also important in a good page-turner is the ability to talk about it with friends. First of all, it should give you something to talk about, such as interesting new ideas or a controversial event. The more it makes you want to talk about it, the better it is at capturing your attention. It is the books that we share with others that have truly made it into our minds.

About Nick Taussig

Nick Taussig is the author of four critically acclaimed novels: Love and Mayhem, Don Don, Gorilla Guerrilla and The Distinguished Assassin. He has also written for a number of publications including The Guardian, The Independent and The Huffington Post. Marcel Berlins, writing in The Times, called The Distinguished Assassin “gripping, passionate, political and emotional.” Love and Mayhem was described by Alain de Botton as “full of insight and genuine innovation in form and content…capturing brilliantly all the nuances of passion.” Matt Munday of The Sunday Times referred to Don Don as “a great book.” While Gorilla Guerrilla, according to Natasha Harding of The Sun, is a “thought-provoking tale…beautifully told.” He is also a film producer. His recent credits include producer of Peter Williams’ The Challenge, Jane Preston’s Gascoigne, Ron Scalpello’s Offender and Nirpal Bhogal’s Sket (Official Selection at the 55th BFI London Film Festival with two award nominations), and executive producer of Ben Drew aka Plan B’s highly praised BIFA-nominated debut feature iLL Manors and the BAFTA-nominated documentary film Taking Liberties. In January 2013, he set up Salon Pictures with fellow producer Paul Van Carter. Before his career in book and film, Nick studied literature and philosophy at Durham University, where he obtained a First, then went on to acquire a Master’s in Russian literature from the UCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies. He is also co-founder of Mtaala Foundation, an education partnership and sponsorship programme to create and support a school for vulnerable children and at-risk youth in Uganda; and a trustee of Harrison’s Fund, which fights Duchenne muscular dystrophy, getting as much money as possible into the hands of the world’s best researchers, who are working to find a cure for this horrible disease.

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