How to become one of my favorites (…if you’re a book/movie)

This blog topic is thanks to the wonderful suggestion from my dear friend Ashley. I put out the open-ended question “What should I write about next?” on places like Twitter, Plurk, Facebook, etc., promising to write about the best topic. Since only two people responded, I will write about both of their topics in separate posts. Ashley’s topic gets to go first, since she was the first to reply. 🙂

I have thought more about what I like in books than in movies, but I believe the general principles apply to both. Allow me to share my humble opinions with you.

A good book/movie has:

1) A twist in the plot. I cannot stand stories that are utterly predictable. Granted, most stories have some elements of predictability. But if I could sit down and write out the ending for you, your book/movie is not going to be one of my favorites.

2) Thought-provoking material. Most of the time, I want stories that give me something to think about. Probably because of my psychology and English degrees, I like analyzing. I like finding symbolism and layers of meaning. Now, before I sound like a total nerd, I enjoy mindless stories as well. I am a fan of nights where I curl up on the couch with ice cream and a book that is as pointless as ice cream is to weight loss. But, overall, at least give me some kernel to gnaw on if you’d like to be one of my favorite books/movies.

3) Engaging content. By this I mean that the story has to pull me in. It must be able keep my attention; I don’t want the hours dragging by as I’m reading/watching the material. My favorite books/movies are the ones where I end up shocked by how quickly time has flown because I have been so engaged in the story.

4) A range of emotions. I like to laugh; I like to be moved to tears. If a book/movie can do both, genuinely, then it’s a favorite.

5) A bittersweet ending. Now I can’t say this is a must for every book/movie, and a good deal of my favorites do not have this. If, however, the story can end in a bittersweet way, with you feeling happy and satisfied with just a hint of regret about something (even if it’s only that the story is over), to me that is true genius. Any story can end well. It takes brilliance to find just the right tone of a bittersweet ending. If a book/movie can do that, it is a favorite.

Any agreements/disagreements to my list above? What makes a good book/movie for you?

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17 thoughts on “How to become one of my favorites (…if you’re a book/movie)

  1. oh I love plot twist and thought provoking stuff, but I also like if the movie has you know, dreamy actors 😛 Sometimes I’m that shallow.

  2. I love your requirements. They match some of the elements that make a book or movie my favorite. I think the only other aspect I would add comes down to character. The books/movies I love the most are the ones where I grow attached to one of the characters. It doesn’t have to be the star/protagonist, and that character doesn’t have to live happily ever after, but it does have to be someone I can really get to know, to love or to hate.

    I think another element that makes up my favorites is grit and reality. I LOVE fantasy but when I’m experiencing it I want it to feel real, plausible. A good writer understands the importance of evoking the suspension of disbelief.

    The next question of course is, what are some of your favorite books/movies and what do you love most about them?

    • Great additions! Feeling connected to a character/identifying with them is definitely important. And definitely grit and reality. If it just seems too improbable, that’s what I’m going to be focusing on, not the story. Good points!
      Lol, my favorite books/movies? I’m afraid I’ll have to save it for another post. 🙂

  3. I agree with all your qualifications and I would add it has to be well-done, or quality work. This applies to movies, as I don’t read fiction, but I refuse to watch a movie produced by MTV anymore because my past experiences are that they are terrible quality. The writing, action, direction, and on and on leave something lacking. On the other hand you can simply tell me a new movie is coming out by one of my favorite directors (one who does quality work) and without evening knowing the premise of the film, I will already be interested in viewing it. As for books, it’s easy. For me all a favorite book has to do is give me accurate knowledge of some topic which I am currently interested in, and I’m sold.

    • Quality and accurate knowledge–definitely important! I agree. It should be quality work, because, after all, they’re getting paid for it. And yes, accurate knowledge is so important. I hate it when I read something that I know is false. Then I get all wrapped up in thinking, “That’s so not true!” And I lose whatever else they’re trying to tell me.

  4. well I think it’s pretty obvious what you have to do now – top ten lists! Favorite movies and favorite books. Then you can be specific about what you like about each film/book.

  5. My tastes in movies and books are really quite different. I guess because they’re really so different in themselves. I like a movie to have good symbolism and cinematography. I want a book to have beautiful turns of phrases and dynamic characters. I agree with though-provoking material in each. I also like both of them to have opening endings.

    • Excellent point. There really are a lot of differences in movies and books, so I do like different things about each.

  6. I’d agree with those. My favourite book, The Time Traveler’s Wife ticks all those boxes I think – so you should read it if you haven’t already!

    • Oooh! I have started hearing a lot about this book lately, but I have not read it. Apparently it is definitely going to go on my reading list!

  7. I agree with all of your points, especially plot twists and bittersweet endings. But I’ll also add character development to that list. You touched on this some, but I have to care about the characters to want to keep reading.

    • Wonderful addition. Character development is key. You definitely want to be able to care about the characters, otherwise you start trailing off and getting distracted. Thanks for adding this point!

  8. The list pretty much reads my mind on the matter. Also I’d like to add that a truly great movie or book would be one that alters my perception of the world after i have watched or read it, even by a little bit.

    Also, thanks for visiting my site 😉

  9. This is an outstanding list. The only one that I have to slightly disagree with is the plot twist. There are some films where you can sense where the plot is headed, but the film is so well executed that it’s still very moving and powerful.

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