As writers tend to do, I often find myself critiquing books I read. I'll pick up a book, typically in my genre, settle down, and start analyzing from page one. Why isn't this scene starting off faster? What is wrong with this main character? Or on the good end, how does this author always manage to pull me in?
And not only do I critique, I compare. I take my writing skills and compare them to the skills of the author of the book I'm reading. Yeah, so that's not always a great way to improve writing skills (or self-esteem), but it is a great way to learn and grow as a writer.
Here are some big topics I find either make me want to continue reading a book, or make me want to stop.
And opening that grabs me right away is super important. We have so little time these days that I tend to be one of those people that wants to be snatched up by a story and not let go. I don't really enjoy building up to it unless the book turns out to be phenomenal. A strong, catchy opening is a great thing we can take away from a good book.
Not all of us are big fans of dialogue, but it really depends on the genre. Sparse of dull dialogue really makes me want to put down a book. Also, great dialogue is a super way to show instead of tell a characters personality.
Although I do enjoy unique characters, with characteristics that are different from my own (like a sassy sense of humor or unwavering independence), I like to be able to relate to them somehow. I like to know that they have feelings just like me, even morals just like me.
On the same note, if I'm going to invest myself in a couple hundred or more pages of a book about a character's life, I want to see the change in that character's life. I want to see that they've gone from a challenging spot and overcome it. Or I want to see them grow up to be a strong person. I want to see them get better and grow over time.
Dull or slow parts (particularly the beginning or middle) definitely make me want to put a book down. When the action continues and something new or different is always happening, I'm swept away by the book and hardly notice I've read the entire thing so quickly until I'm done.
Cliche endings bother me. They make me wonder if investing my time in the whole book was a good idea or make me wonder if I want to read a book by that author again because I expect more. So, keep those endings fresh. Make the reader want to cheer at the end, or make them think and wonder what happened afterward. But make it a believable ending and one that the reader will appreciate.
Even though we enjoy reading books we love, as writers we can still learn a lot by reading books that turn out to be far from our favorites. We can see what doesn't work and make sure to keep that from our own writing.
So, what do you love or dislike about books you read and what makes you want to read more by that author? Are you going to have a checklist the next time you read a book or do you already have one?