To kick off the New Year, we hope to help you kick-start your novel plans with a little extra inside information. Ever wish you could get inside readers’ minds and find out what compels them to read—or not read? Well, we’ve polled a small sample of readers: our publishing team! (Full disclosure: some weren’t able to participate, but we have a nice little selection for you, if we do say so ourselves.)
Here’s the question we asked our team:
Let’s say you’re at a bookstore browsing your favorite section. You pick up a few books and read a page or two each. Judging the text itself, what one thing makes you want to keep reading and what one thing makes you want to put the book down?
Feel free to read our minds:
1. What makes you want to keep reading?
Emily: A unique (particularly, witty) voice.
Adam: If I’m thrust right into the middle of the tension, especially if it’s left unresolved for later.
Lorie: A refreshing premise.
Paul: Setup. Are the characters, location, story, and writing style setting up a potentially dynamic finish?
Michal: A character, scene, or action that seems unique.
Brian: I like an engaging preface/prologue/introduction that hooks me in.
Brigitte: A tense and suspenseful plot.
Jim: It needs to be engaging me from the start. I’m much like Adam and Brian here. That’s why I loved reading [Road Warrior] Animal’s story.
Ali: I’m with Emily. If it immediately shows me sharp wit, I’m in.
Helen: I keep reading a book if the main characters are so compelling I must get to know them better.
2. What makes you want to put the book down?
Emily: Clunky, confusing sentences.
Adam: No sense of atmosphere. All focus on character descriptions with little sense of the environment they’re in.
Lorie: Too much telling instead of showing.
Paul: All of the above, plus no fun or cool character(s) with whom I want to take a journey.
Michal: Drawn-out exposition.
Brian: Lorie and Michal’s answers. I recently stopped reading a novel that fit this description. Also poor character buildup.
Brigitte: Too much character and atmosphere description along with repetitiveness.
Jim: Excessive repetition of story elements, overdone descriptions, and no immediate progression of the story.
Ali: If it’s too generic or predictable, I’ll definitely put it down.
Helen: I will put it down if the first chapter leads me toward a trite, done-too-many-times, formulaic plot.
Authors, as you plan, write, or edit your novel, we hope this sheds a little light on what at least some readers are looking for.
Now it’s your turn! What makes you want to keep reading a book or set it down for good?