As I'm nearing the end of Vagar, I find myself in a curious mood. I love to read and wish I had more time to escape into books. So, when I do get the chance to escape, I want the story to draw me in and keep me turning the pages. That got me thinking about what it is I look for in a novel to keep me hooked to the very end and I was wondering the same for all you readers out there.
For me, it's the characters first. I've always been fascinated by characters, main and supporting and even the brief mention of the craggy old man down the lane. Any and all characters intrigue me and the more an author can bring those characters to life on the page, the more immersed I am in the story. I want to connect with the characters, especially the MC and if I do connect, then I'm more likely to enjoy the book. If I can't connect for whatever reason, then I don't really care what happens to the character which causes me to not care what happens as the plot progresses. Not a good thing. So, give me characters with depth and I'm a truly happy reader.
Of course, a novel can't exist on characters alone. They have to inhabit some sort of world whether it's based on reality or fantasy or whatever. Under the sea, in outer space, on top of the Swiss Alps... doesn't matter. The characters have to live somewhere; they have to occupy some sort of space. So, world-building is the second thing that keeps me turning the pages. I like worlds that are unique but still have tinges of reality. Physics still applies, for the most part. (Magic obviously can negate the need for physics, but even magic has its basis in reality.) So give me characters with depth inhabiting a world that I can actually see myself stepping into and I've gone from a truly happy reader to an extremely ecstatic reader.
But what novel out there doesn't have a plot? They all do, but here's the kicker for me. If you take the plot of most any book in a specific genre and break it down to its bare bones core, you will find that the majority of the plots that exist have been done... many of them more than once. The only difference from one plot to the next might be a slight twist or angle that the author has created in order to make an ordinary plot extraordinary. It's getting more and more difficult to find an original plot these days which is why I find myself more drawn to characters and world-building than plots. Maybe some will consider those two aspects to be window-dressing, but not me.
For a novel to exist, though, all of these elements must be present. I understand that and would never suggest otherwise. But, for me as a reader, there's something that draws me to the characters specifically. How they develop throughout the story, the types of interactions they have with other characters, and their actions and thought processes as they deal with each situation intrigue me. I love reading how an author portrays their characters and each author has their own unique flare, probably because each author is a unique individual and those characters only reside in the head of that particular author.
Anyway, just a little bit of curiosity as I wrap up the manuscript for Vagar. Now I'm going to get off of here because I have my own characters who are eager to finish getting their story out. Wishing all of you a wonderful upcoming weekend full of awesome worlds to escape into!