It’s hard to figure that out, since every person will experience a book differently. We all have different tastes and preferences, and those things are influenced by a million factors. Some of us like fiction, others prefer non-fiction. Some of us like to read articles online and others like to read big clunky hardcovers. That’s why it’s so important to remember that no matter what you write, someone out there will want to read it.
When I read a book, there are a few key things that either make my experience a good one or a bad one. I can be difficult to please, and although I try to keep myself from despising a book because of a small thing in the story, it happens anyway. Here’s what I look for when reading, and what will make or break my love of the story:
1) Believability. I want the story to feel real, whether it’s fantasy or a NatGeo article. Even if the author has created a fictional world with magical beasts and magic and dragons, I still want events to feel like they could be possible. I feel like this is where a lot of books fail. Some writers feel that their stories have gone stagnant, so they will add something unexpected and ridiculously awkward to the story to revive it. As an experienced reader, I can generally recognize when this happens.
2) Emotions. Sometimes characters do things that you don’t expect and it’s wonderful. They show you that they are braver and more honourable than you had thought. Perhaps they are less selfish than you had expected, or they have a dark side that you respect. These are all wonderful things and they are part of character building. But what happens when a character behaves in a way that the reader just can’t understand? They question the writer. Take a lot of these teen dramas as an example. Many of them have teen characters that do really stupid things for their boyfriends/girlfriends. There’s a difference between romance and reality, and sometimes they shoot just a little too far.
3) World/scene building. It’s important for me to be able to form a visual based on what the writer describes. I want to know the tastes, smells, and textures of everything. I want to know what shade of red the carpet is, or how bright the green. But, I don’t want it to be told to me in list format or thrown at me haphazardly. I want it to be subtle and quiet, but loud enough for me to paint behind m eyelids.
4) Romance. I love romance in stories, but I don’t want every page to be about some kind of emotional turmoil between two characters. I suppose I prefer when the love story is wrapped up inside the story, not the other way around. For a love story to be intriguing, to me it has to be something that you hope for in the background.
There are a number of other things that can tell me if I enjoy a book or not. I’m quite picky, so if I don’t enjoy even one of those aspects I may put a book down. It’s harsh, I know, but I have read so much that I know my tastes well, and I would rather not drag myself through something that I know I won’t enjoy. That being said, I do like a variety of genres, styles, and writers. I may love one book from an author, but not their next.
The role of the publisher can be felt in some of the things that I don’t like. Perhaps the love story was rewritten and added to prior to publishing so that it would appeal to a certain group. Maybe the editor felt as if the story was falling flat and suggested an addition. Or perhaps the author wanted to try something new.
Although it’s impossible that every book suit our personal preferences, it’s still good to remember that there are a number of reasons why a book may not be of interest to you. It can also teach you many things as a writer. Take what you find irritating and avoid doing it yourself. Make notes of the aspects in stories that don’t work for you and think about how you would do better. It’s hard to learn from your own mistakes as a writer if you’ve never done it professionally, so learn from the mistakes of others instead. Your writing will be stronger and you will have a better understanding of the art.
What really turns you off of a story? What is the most important to you when reading? Have you learned to rework your writing from any specific books?