When we sit down to read, be it for pleasure or business, we all are expecting some magic to come pouring out from between those press-board covers and slivers of pages. Magic that would transform our lives and make us better people. Yes, even fiction should make us better somewhere deep inside.
1) We want to fall deeply into the story.
The only way to do this, in any genre, is to write well. But there’s the trick, right? What is writing well? Some might say that it’s free of typos and errors. I hold that while this does play a part, it is only the slightest, smallest, tiniest of portions to the puzzle.
In order to fall deeply into a story, the writer should be building the illusion of their world in your head. Once the world is created — be it built on modern principals of cars and buildings, or on alien worlds of starships and insect hives — the characters must react to that world and each other in realistic and believable ways.
And finally, the characters need a soul! They can’t just act and react to their stimuli. They have to learn, love, hope, dream and feel. When they experience the world around them, we get the joy of experiencing it with them.
When the world is built properly, the characters are real and can almost be touched, and they have a soul and emotions, we find ourselves buried in the illusion, walking beside them, hoping for them to succeed.
Which brings me to my next point…
2) We want for them to face troubles.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that we’re all a pack of heartless, soulless deviants wanting an innocent bystander to be injured, maimed or killed. (Well… most of us aren’t.) But in order for us to hope with them, they characters have to have something they are hoping for within themselves. Whether that is the hope of finding love, the hope of escaping torment, or the hope of finding an answer. We can’t hope with them unless they are facing some issues of their own.
3) We want to understand something about ourselves.
In the end, we understand that our favorite characters are really a reflection of some aspect of ourselves. And that trouble that they were experiencing? Well, that’s just a reflection of some troubles we may face, too. No, we don’t go up against a blue-haired demon from the abyss when we go to work. But our boss might be overbearing, demanding, and prideful, much like the afore-mentioned blue-haired beast.
And what happens when we see that sliver of ourselves in the bad guy? When he has stolen something he should not have, or planned for something to sabotage the hero’s world, we still learn so much. When our hero overcomes that villain, we can see ourselves in them. We can understand that we can overcome those things that war against us. In their story, we, too, find our own hope… because the thing that we have to overcome most — when we have read the last word on the page — is ourselves.
What do you look for in the books you read?