What Do Bestsellers Have In Common?

By on May 12, 2016

Writing a bestselling book may not be as difficult as you think! Looking at what makes some books incredibly popular, while others are left gathering dust, actually shows there are a number of patterns and common elements that all the bestsellers include.

So is there in fact a recipe to writing a bestselling novel? In a way, yes. If you read plenty of popular fiction you can see that the basic story structure is the same. However, you can’t simply follow the pattern and expect your book to be an instant hit.

Not only do you need to know how to present your manuscript, how to contact publishers and agents, and how to market your book, but there is also that little issue of being a good writer too!

However, looking at some of the themes in bestselling books can certainly help you write you own.

All bestselling books have a hero or heroine, they are on a journey, they have enemies, they have battles to overcome. The classic hero’s journey involves creating a protagonist we sympathise with, setting up obstacles which they must overcome, and then creating suspense around whether they will in fact be able to overcome these obstacles, eventually resulting in them doing so. The hero or heroine is also usually both an ordinary and extraordinary person, someone we can relate to, but also aspire to be.

They are both happy and sad -while the endings of bestselling books tend to see the hero achieving what they want, this usually comes at a price. Throughout the book there will be peaks and troughs, but at one point the hero or heroine will lose something precious to them. A perfectly happy ending without any struggle or loss does not resonate with the reader, as it is not how real life works. We want to see the characters struggle, but ultimately rejoice with them when all is well in the end.

There is usually a love story - this may be the main focus of your book, or an aside, but most bestsellers have a romance, or relationship as part of their novel. Relationships between characters make them seem more human, more real, it helps readers emotionally engage with the characters and care about what happens to them.

The prose style in bestselling books tends to be simple and uncluttered -popular books are easy to read. This doesn’t mean you can’t write intelligently and interestingly, but generally the most well-read books are written with an ‘invisible’ prose style, meaning the reader can effortlessly get through the book without struggling over long words or complex sentences. This keeps the pace quick , and means the book can appeal to a wider audience. Small words and short sentences are best.

They read like a movie - many bestselling books could easily be translated onto the screen. They are filled with dramatic scenes which keeps them fast paced and engaging and the reader wanting more. They are also filled with dramatic tension. Each chapter should end with suspense - this is what keeps the reader motivated to read on and makes a book a real ‘page turner.’

These elements can all be found in bestselling novels, so if you want to write one, make sure you include them, and you never know, you could see your book flying off the shelves!

Bethany Cadman -author of 'Doctor Vanilla's Sunflowers'

Bethany Cadman -author of 'Doctor Vanilla's Sunflowers'

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