I read a lot.
I guess that makes sense, because they say a writer ought to do that, but as much as I read, I’m also pretty picky. I want a lot of things from a book and I have my preferences (just like you do I’m sure) and I’ve lately been finding what I’ve been able to get into and what I haven’t interesting. For example, despite my love of urban fantasy, I just can’t get through ‘American Gods’ (by Neil Gaiman), I enjoyed some of his short stories in an anthology of his I read, but there’s just something about American Gods I don’t like. ‘Gone Girl’ (by Gillian Flynn) however caught me and kept me reading until late in the night and there’s not a hint of magic in that book. So what is it that keeps me reading and makes me loathe to put a book down?
Let’s see here…
Emotional over physical
I like a style that gives more personal and emotional information than information about the environment and appearance of the characters. I often try to do that in my stories and I’ve been told in the past that I don’t put in enough physical detail (someone told me once they didn’t like that they had to work to imagine the environment), but I like to use my imagination. If I’m drowned in detail I get bored pretty fast because it slows down the pace and does all the work for me. I also like to know what the characters are thinking and feeling as well as their emotional history, this gets me involved and makes me feel like they’re real. I want to feel like the characters have an impact on the world and the story isn’t just taking them along for the ride.
Cheese factor & exposition
Contrary to popular belief, it is easy to be cheesy. Exposition and info dumps are the bane of a good story’s existence. I don’t like a story where things are constantly explained or dumbed down. Cliche also falls into the cheese factor camp. Unfortunately things are cliche for a reason, because they are true or good ideas, so sometimes one can’t avoid it altogether but it’s best to try wherever possible. The stories that keep me up all night are the one’s with high amounts of realism (this can be achieved even in fantasy) and low exposition.
I love a story that moves swiftly. I want to be pulled along on an adventure, I want to get lost in other worlds and learn new things. Good pace is essential to keeping my attention.
I’m currently trying to read Game of Thrones. It’s a bit of a slog for me because it’s so rich in detail. High fantasy has always been a tough nut for me to crack because of that, but what I love about the concept of Game of Thrones is that Mr. Martin writes with the specific intention of defying expectations. I like that. I want to be surprised, shocked and even horrified. I want to experience things and think about things in ways I never would have thought of myself. Because that’s the joy of reading to me, exploring the depths of other people’s minds and lives.
If a character is solid enough I’ll care about them even if they’re sitting there eating cheese and playing solitaire. Good characters are the foundation of a great story.
A little love
I like a little love. If it’s all war and politics and business it eventually gets boring to me, and unrealistic. Love is all around us, it motivates us and permeates the fabric of our existence. Without a little love in our lives, things tend to fall flat.
Those are a few of my thoughts on what makes a good read…tell me about yours.
This is a post for www.writesofluid.com’s blog writing challenge. One blog post a day for all of June! Check it out at the website or on twitter: @sofluid or #wpad!