Wednesday, July 14, 2010

A Reader's Manifesto: 10 Things I Want From a Novel

Today, I sat back and thought about what I like to see in a book. I have started countless novels in my life and set many of them aside unfinished for one reason or another. I have compiled a list of open declarations to the writing community. I don’t expect everyone to agree with me, but these are the things I want when I read a book for pleasure.

1.    The Big Bad
I want a villain who is larger than life and seemingly evil incarnate but is three-dimensional enough to support his or her own story if needed.

2.    The Han Solo
I want a hero who is imperfect and fallible, but still tough and resourceful enough to make me stop and say, “damn, that was cool,” every now and then.

3.    Action
I want action and plot. I do not want to wade through ten pages of mind-numbing literary prose that does not advance the story before getting to the meat of a chapter.

4.    Sex
When there is sex, don’t cop out on the description. The characters should be as real as they can be, and real people have sex.

5.    No Bedpost Notches
I do not, however, want to see a hero who has sex with any and everyone he or she meets. I don’t do that in real life and I don’t care to read about it.

6.    No Kid Gloves
When there is violence, don’t cop out on that either. If it is graphic, that is fine as long as it serves a larger purpose within the story.

7.    Humor
I want to see at least a little humor in a book. Even if the story is a serious one, every tale can benefit from some comic relief.

8.    Tension
Bring on the danger and tension. If there is no sense of urgency for the characters, then there is no sense of urgency for me to keep reading.

9.    No deus ex machina
I want a story that is fantastic but still adheres to its own rules. If it seems impossible for your protagonist to prevail in the end, then you better have a damn good explanation if they manage to do it.

10.   Do not waste my time
I do not have nearly as much time to read as I would like, so please don’t make me waste it.

That’s my short list. I tend to follow these guidelines in my own writing as well.

What do you want from a good book?

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