A few years back, I did a post on “Ten things I don’t want to read about,” so I thought, why not ten things that always hook my interest?
This would be about story elements, maybe story types, or even elements of voice. Anything goes.
A promise of humor is probably first. It doesn’t have to be a satire, or a comedy; the humor can be conveyed through the voice, but I find my interest engaged the more quickly if I perceived its presence.
And then there are story elements that promise fun, like disguises. I realize this betrays my total lack of literary sophistication (yeah, right, like there was ever any question), but I really get a kick out of stories with disguises, especially when what the characters know, what the author knows, and what the reader knows are all different, and revelations are cleverly worked out so that I can’t predict who will know what when, why, and how. Levels of disguise are even more intriguing: masquerades, cross dressing, levels of identity.
This can translate over into amnesia stories. I suspect that the amnesia story is a subset of the stranger coming to the village, or conversely, the disruption of orderly and expected life by an outside element. (As long as the disruption isn’t some version of “pure evil” which I tend to find banal, predictable, and only useful for shock value. Not fond of shock value for the sake of shock.)
Close by, but not quite the same is the element of intrigue. I find the subtleties of power play so much more interesting than hack-smash-and-hew. (Not that I object to some spiffy explosions, duels, chases, and the like. But hardcore, unrelenting violence, not my thing.) Worldbuilding that convinces me is of primary importance here. Intrigue isn’t as convincing in a Hollywood backdrop story.
Romance, both in the older sense as well as romantic interactions. I so much prefer romance to grimdark, wit to grit.
I like my protagonists to have a moral code, maybe even a sense of honor, though it isn’t easy or convenient, and the numinous is going to catch my heart every time.
Caper stories —but I find there has to be another element, like friendship versus trust. If it’s all clever people being clever, that can read (to me) a bit arid and empty.
And last, the twist that changes everything.
How about you?