What triggers you to pick up or perhaps click on a specific book?
• Recommendation of a friend?
• An appealing cover?
• What you’ve heard about an author?
• How you experienced an author’s past works
Books are carefully designed for mass appeal or to encourage one to pick it up. Authors encourage their book fans to recommend their work to friends, and their external PR and marketing efforts are maintained to encourage new readers to pick up their books.
Once you’ve chosen a book, what do you hope to get:
• All of the above.
We choose books depending on our needs, which tend to change throughout our lifetime.
Books contain a great deal of power by:
• Adding excitement into and a means of escape from our day to day lives
• Helping us put our own challenges in perspective.
• Allowing us to explore places we would like to revisit or places we have never been.
• Exposing us to differed thought processes and perspectives.
• Through well told stories, we learn empathy and ways to overcome personal challenges.
Personally, I read books from many genres. Other than for research, I require at least one character I can root for and a plot that compels me to keep turning pages.
There must be at least one character whom I care about and can root for. Though flawed, the protagonist must have challenges with high stakes–ones I can relate to or find intriguing. I prefer a likeable protagonist. However, there are exceptions to the rule. When I come across a compelling, likeable protagonist whom I care about and can root for who has a compelling issue where success matters, I’m hooked!
On the other side of the coin, Antagonists matter as well. I prefer an intelligent or cunning “bad guy”, because without a challenge who cares? They don’t have to be likeable, but must be interesting. Think Hannibal Lector—but not without Clarice Starling. Either way, my personal preference requires that an antagonist is strongly motivated to succeed. I want to feel their desire as it is a pure motivator for the protagonist.
When it comes to secondary characters, they can be likeable or unlikeable, smart or dumb, but they must be—in some way—interesting.
I’m a big fan of a compelling, high stakes plotlines that keeps me on my toes. If it is based on actual events, even better. That goes for both fiction and non-fiction. In my own novels, which are set in the fashion retail arena, I must tone down characters which are based on an actual or composites of an actual professional in the industry. Fiction must be believable—real like has not such restrictions. In fantasy and science fiction, the author must make their worlds real by suspending a readers’ sense of disbelief.
Unless drawn to flow of language in literary fiction, a good book needs both compelling characters and a riveting plot. Characters need something significant, to accomplishes, generally with the clock ticking from page to page in commercial fiction–no matter what genre.
Writing is a very personal thing, but so is reading. Our choices and preferences are just as valid and interesting as those of others. These unique desires are what leads to new genres and propels the ebb and flow of the industry. We bring our own experiences and thought processes to the reading of any book. Therefore, no two people ever read the same book. So, the next time you reach for a new book to read, take a moment to consciously think about your personal tastes.
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