I wanted to look past the obvious (good editing, professional work) and vague (good writer). A good writer manipulates words into poetry. You are compelled to continue reading. Each word draws you further in. Sometimes good writing cannot overcome poor story whereas a great story can often overcome less than spectacular writing.
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1. Memorable Characters: I want the characters to stay with me long after the last page. They need to be flawed. Nobody can relate to perfection. Still, they must have a redeeming quality. It can't be all flaws. The author has to flesh out the characters and make the reader care.
2. Contracting Conflict: Think of it like labor. The conflict should rise, come back a bit, and rise again. You need a break from the tension, but not a complete collapse of conflict. It should ebb and flow and engage the reader.
3. Engaging Emotions: You often hear someone say, "It made me laugh and cry." A reader needs to be emotionally invested in a story. But it can't be all sadness or all terror. Give the reader bits and pieces of different emotions, like life.
4. Compelling Journey: The character, which thanks to #1-#3, we so care about should learn something. There should be a reason for the story. A journey with a destination. You wouldn't tell a joke without the punchline.
5. Lasting Impression: The story and the characters should stay with you. When you are done, there should be a desire to know more. I'm not suggesting all books need sequels, but a reader should want one.
Tomorrow, I am going to compare the two YA novels I mentioned earlier to attempt to answer why one will stay with me and one won't.
What do you think is the most important element of a good story/read?