When learning how to write (better), one of the books I turned to was Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Mass. In this book, early on, the would-be-breakout-novel-writer is asked to think of all of their favorite books (Top 5) and then examine what makes them so special. When trying to push the boundaries of your own work, I definitely encourage you to do the same. But let's start with mine:
Kory's Top 5 and Why It Is So Awesome
There are many reasons why Rowling's series is so awesome. But just for the sake of brevity (I've got aikido in the morning!) I'll name the top two: everything builds to a grand finality--an epic moment where all must be either won or lost. Great sacrifice was made, hearts broken, and lives changed forever--basically, it was some epic shit. Secondly, it was a world that every child wanted to be real. The world building was phenomenal, but more than that, it was a world we wanted to be part of.
Dune by Frank Herbert
Herbert also get's an A++ for world building, but in addition to that, some serious cred for being eco-conscious and delving into the ever interesting political intrigue. The intricate web of politics, religion, environmental issues and so on are so incredibly well-done here. If for some ungodly reason you are into SFF and you haven't read Dune--your life is incomplete, my friend.
A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki
The character Nao. She is fantastic. She is one of the most amazingly well-done characters that I have read in---forever. And her story is heartbreaking and real. And this story is also layered and intricate, pulling together some amazing themes in a totally unique way. You can read my full review of it here.
Empress by Shan Sa
This is a historical fiction novel about Empress Wu. An amazing woman who came to rule all of China in a time when women were basically cattle. And if that alone does make the story awesome, the good writing, beautiful language, and gorgeous imagery definitely do it for me.
Spin by Robert Charles Wilson
Another great science fiction reads--and one of the rare kinds of books that I stop my entire life to finish. I think it is so interesting not only for the good story, but because of its attention to character and the awesome pacing (it unfolds really well which made it impossible to put down!)
So if I were to oversimplify this, I would say amazing stories have unique characters, fantastic world-building, excellent pace, beautiful language/imagery and comes to a *&^$## epic conclusion that makes the ride seem worth it. And these are the things I think about when I try to push my own writing further and farther each time.
What books have inspired you to take your own writing further and farther?
And that do you think makes a great story?