The Fantasy Readers and Writers Group challenged me with a question:
What do you like about / look for the most in fantasy books?
This prompt made me realize something: I haven’t read many fantasy books at all (a problem I am working to remedy). For now, I’ll be answering this question more generally: What do I look for in speculative fiction books?
I read from many points of view: a reader, an editor, and now a budding writer. I have read a long list of books. However, I’m finding it difficult to put into words what I actually like in my favorite books — what catches and keeps my interest. But here goes:
1) Feel the Story. I don’t like when the narrator tells me a story. Or tells me what happened without explaining how “it” happened. Instead, I want to be a part of the story. I want to experience the story as the characters experienced it. I want to be engulfed in all their senses. I want the story to evoke emotion like I am the one experiencing it. I want to feel the story.
2) Clean Writing. I understand in a long novel a typo here and there will slip through the cracks. Even the best of authors have them. However, when the typos and misspellings become the norm rather than the exception, I have to call it quits. There’s nothing worse than a sloppy manuscript to pull you out of a good story.
3) Flow. There needs to be ease of flow; words need to dance across my mind without tripping over each other. A story that jumps around too much gets me off track.
4) World creation. Speculative fiction is about drawing a reader into a whole new world; a world unlike our own; a world where the impossible is made possible. Details of a world need to be sprinkled throughout the story, and rules of the world consistent. Rules of a world force the character to resolve a problem in a certain way. For example, societal rules in The Giver forced the character to take drastic measures.
5) Wanting more. I love authors that end their chapters with intrigue. A story needs to draw me in and keep me there. I don’t have the best attention span (ask my husband), so if a story can keep me turning the page and wanting more, you’re golden.
6) Psychological Themes. When an author can delve deep into the depths of the human psyche and show me what they find, I know I’m hooked. Questions of authority, existence, what the future can hold or take away, what it means to be human, the strength of the human will.
This blog post was written as part of a Fantasy Writers and Readers writing prompt. Please contact me for an invite if you are an avid fantasy writer and/or reader and would like to participate in this closed Facebook group.