When trying to select a topic this week, I considered – for half a second – writing about my favorite romance authors. However, the idea only lasted for half a second because 1) I would surely miss someone, and 2) I wouldn’t want to offend the ones who didn’t make it on the list. So I won’t name my favorite authors. But I can tell you what I look for in stories.
This is where it all starts. (I know, for some of you this is probably so obvious, you are fighting the urge to roll your eyes. Bear with me.) I don’t care where she is from or what trendy occupation she has or about the color of her hair. I do care that she is a likeable person. I want to have a reason to care about what happens to her. I want her to have some spunk, even if she might not realize it yet. Blindly naïve, doormats or TSTL need not apply.
I have a similar list for the heroes. He doesn’t have to be a Seal or a billionaire. But I hope he has enough internal strength to know the right thing to do and be willing to do it, even if he grumbles the whole time. In a historical, I want a man willing to take on a gang of outlaws or to do whatever he must to protect his clan. In a contemporary, I want a man who will stand up to the town bully and will also stand for the flag. And he needs to have (or learn) patience when the heroine as at the end of her rope. Bonus points if he helps her (even grudgingly) tie a knot to hang on.
This has to be believable, too. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m willing to suspend a little disbelief, especially when the genre clearly calls for it. And if there is a huge plot twist, a good writer has already laid the groundwork to make it seem plausible. Beyond that, the specifics of the plot are less important. Give me a believable conflict and characters who must grow and struggle to get through it and I’m happy. Characters simply talking about their problems through an entire story make me yawn. Improbable events inserted to take the story in a certain direction make me want to throw the book against the wall. But for an author who does a good job setting up the plot, I will happily follow characters on a cross-country quest or watch them battle their own demons. .
An author does not need to load a book with a lot of details to make me happy. A small sprinkling is sufficient, if the author gets them right. There are some authors who, with only a word or two, can convey a setting or an emotion or make you feel as though you just learned something about another place or time. These are the ones I enjoy. Conversely, wildly improbable details are probably what make me want to throw a book against the wall the quickest. If a story takes place on a farm, have the characters actually get dirty, and have them work longer hours than 9:00 – 5:00. If a story takes place in the mountains in winter, I hope the character will be dressed for the weather.
This is a quick summary of what I am looking for in a story. Is your list similar? I suppose most of us are looking for essentially the same thing. We all want to find a great storyteller who will keep us engrossed in a story long past the time we should put it down and go to sleep.
I write historical fiction, and I invite you to share the journey to published author with me.