A Stunning or Intriguing Cover
People say not to judge a book by its cover and while I actually do agree (there are many great books with horrible covers or covers I could stare at all day but wouldn’t touch the insides of), the cover is the first thing that grabs me. A cover should give the reader an accurate idea of what they are in for, and many is the book I have seized because it’s cover promised me I was about to go on a great adventure.
Vivid, Real Characters
This is maybe the biggest element for me. I can stomach weak or choppy plot, minor flaws, a boring setting, cringe-worthy descriptions, (and even straight-up bad writing sometimes?) if I love the characters. If it weren’t for the people in books, I wouldn’t be a reader and I wouldn’t be a writer. And the first thing that really grabs me in a book description is whether the characters sound good or cliché. That’s the real selling point for me.
A Good Twisty Plot
I love to be kept on my toes by a plot. Let the characters make unexpected decisions, let the book take a sudden and unusual turn, let the loyalties of characters change. Usually if I can guess the ending, some of the excitement goes out of the experience.
Unique Premise or Twist on a Classic
A classic retelling in a totally different setting? A premise that doesn’t sound like fifteen other current books on the market? Turning clichés on their heads? Sign me up.
There’s a reason why when people finish a book, they feel like they’ve been somewhere, or lived it. That is (most of the time) due to good atmosphere. Many of my first stories and writing projects were about people and places and cultures I had never been in because I read books about them, and I felt like I had lived it once. I had fought sharks in the warm south seas with Mafatu, marched south of the Rio Grande with Lee, dodged the Sheriff of Nottingham with Robin Hood, raced along the streets of Sienna in the heart-pounding Palio. Atmosphere is everything.
For the last one I’m going to actually do a negative element:
Lack of Cliche Attitude
Cliche attitude is a big reason I may put a book down or simply not enjoy it. Characters who are consistently resisting responsibility, wondering why authorities ‘just don’t understand them’, men reduced to whining boys, broody handsome men you want to give your heart to immediately, girls who consistently show up all the men in skills the men have been practicing all their lives….
What elements do you look for in a good read? Are there any elements that make or break a book for you?
Also, look for a second post later in the week; I will hopefully be announcing street team details!