Monday, July 18, 2011

What Readers Want

Yesterday on I read a post from John Dalton on Writers Tips.

Dalton is a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop and teaches at the University of Missouri MFA writing program. Here's his bio from his website if you want to read more.

I wholeheartedly agree with Dalton's statement in the stltoday post that "even in expertly crafted literary novels, stuff has to happen." I've read novels and short stories with lovely writing and intriguing characters, but when nothing happens, I wonder--so what?

In Dalton's post he lists five tips on what readers of literary fiction value and five things they don't want. Click here to read Dalton's list of basic writing tips.

From his list, I agree with his number one picks--Value #1 Truth and Dislike #1 Philisopical Meditations. Under Dislikes, descriptions of weather don't bother me--unless they are drawn out and have nothing to do with the story.

As a reader, in addition to the five likes and dislikes listed by Dalton, here are a few of my values and dislikes:

Value: clarity, brevity and wisdom

Dislike: political opinions, stilted dialogue and repetition

How about you, what do you value and dislike when you are reading fiction?


  1. I like original story ideas, well-round characters and lively dialogue. I admit that when there is a long, drawn-out description of the fuschia wispy clouds, glinting from the last bit of the sun as it sets, while the ocean waves lap up on the beach, the sand gritty with occasional bits of broken shells mixed with washed-up seaweed...Oops, I did it myself. I admit I usually skim over sections like that. The fluff I can do without.

  2. I don't care for flat/stereotypical/cliched characters. I will usually follow an interesting character through a so-so plot but I will rarely continue on with a boring character, no matter how intriguing the plot because in the end, I won't care what happens to him/her anyway. :)

  3. I like good dialogue. I prefer a story heavy in dialogue and to be witty and clever is a bonus.

  4. It sounds wonderful - heading over now. Thanks so much for sharing it with us! :)

  5. I love a sharp, well written piece brimming with life and am a sucker for a story that can make me laugh, yet have poignant moments that make me cry, too.

    I don't care for flowery descriptive narrative that brims with overuse of analogy. A little of that goes a long way.


  6. I like a story to be interesting from the start. Sometimes description and back story can become too excessive.

  7. I like well-developed characters, something real to care about, and tension. Okay, that's a good start anyhow.

  8. I like a character who is interesting...that I can identify with asbeing like me in some way...I like to watch how he/she handles situations in life.

  9. It's a toss up to me which I love more, story or character. I love a great story, but I think you need memorable and often quirky characters to tell it.

  10. Hi Everyone,
    Thanks for your comments. This is a fascinating topic.


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