Saturday, December 4, 2010

Reader Requests

I recently asked readers in a Kindle forum what they would like to see more of in novels. Here are their answers, verbatim.
  • Mysteries in which you are given sufficient clues to figure it out before the detective does.
  • Humor applied like seasoning throughout the book, in narration and dialog, and of a dry or tongue-in-cheek nature.
  • Underdogs.
  • Romances that develop unpredictably, with all the illogical surprises real ones have.
  • Rivals who develop respect for each other and possibly even become friends.
  • Themes of brotherhood.
  • A devil-may-care protagonist who doesn't get depressed (like I do) when life dumps tons of manure on them.
  • An author who knows what s/he is writing about, and can effortlessly, comfortably “speak the language” of people from the subculture they depict.
  • Fantasy authors who keep made-up, foreign-sounding words to a minimum.
  • Breaking of current conventions (but not just for the sake of breaking conventions).
  • Climaxes that live up to the hype/buildup.
  • Science fiction that focuses more on character than technology. (Technology is a prop, or backdrop.)
  • Characters who make mistakes, but not as many as I do. ;-)
  • Oh yeah: clean prose without consistent amateurish blemishes.
  • New plot developments that force me to radically reinterpret everything I read before!
It’s a diverse and interesting list, confirming that readers are smart and eclectic. And I'm sure we can add to it. What do you want to see more of in novels?


L.J. Sellers is an award-winning journalist, editor, and the author of the Detective Jackson mysteries, The Sex Club , Secrets to Die For, and Thrilled to Death, and two standalone thrillers, The Baby Thief and The Suicide Effect. All are available on Kindle for $2.99. She also loves to edit fiction and works with authors to keep her rates affordable. Contact her at:
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  1. That's a really great list. The one about rivals, in particular, is kind of spiraling through my brain right now, generating story ideas.

  2. As a writer (of a Regency-rom-com-mystery) I have duly taken note...particularly to those comments re: mysteries, comedy and romance.

    Very helpful. Thx.

    Julie Johnson

  3. I'd like to see more characters with depths and layers, as well as more compelling stories that don't rely on titillating the senses or the use of foul language or gory violence to keep the reader engaged. A story that grips the reader need not contain passages that alienate (or sicken) any segment of its potential audience. A real page-turner without those passages may well include readers who do typically read very graphic stories. They don't miss the graphic stuff because it isn't gone—it's just presented differently.

    One more thing I'd love to see reiterates one of the list items: "clean prose without consistent amateurish blemishes." Yes, all books need to be well edited.

    Great post!

  4. As I writer I was delighted with the list, because at lesat four of those requests ticked boes with my current project!

    As a reader, I'd like to see more stories that deal with deep, philosogphical issues in an easily understood way and which offer a happy ending rather than the usual tragic ending which seems obligatory to many serious works.

  5. Applied your list to my novel for my blog readers to appreciate ( Credited your work and encouraged my readers to visit Blood Red Pencil blog. Thanks!

  6. Values, ethics, and positive messages. I want a hero/ine that has them and struggles to walk the talk. I want hope and kindness, love and grace in a measure a bit higher than all the cr*p we have to wade through in a lot of modern writing. Give me something to read that's a little better than real life.

  7. Two things spring to mind:

    1) I'd like more description of place and characters, like Dickens used to do it. I want to feel like I'm in the story in every way possible.

    2) I wish authors would write about what they know not what they think they know. I'm currently reading 'The House at Riverton' by Kate Morton and I'm finding it so full of mistakes re life in the 1920's. It just doesn't ring true at all. Very disappointing. She's a good writer but she should stick to what she knows (in my opinion).
    Blessings, Star

  8. I agree with what Linda Lane said. I'm tired of trash. I understand the comments about fantasy being so full of difficult words you get lost in its confusion. Therefore, mine doesn't have that. Humor is great when used appropriately.

    I would like to see less trash and more complex characterization in situations that mirror real life but don't necessarily copy it.

    N. R. Williams, fantasy author

  9. This is really thought-provoking. Thank you!

  10. Interesting list. You have a knack for asking the right questions, too - so you always get really good responses.

  11. I was going to say "pro editing" but I think that got covered!


  12. I think I'd like more thrillers that explain all the technology so that I understand but don't feel talked down to.

  13. I have to agree with everything on the list except for the bit about me figuring it out first. That'd be a bit of a tall order for the author considering how dense I can be in crime novels!

  14. I always enjoy a good underdog. Great list!

  15. I'm curious if you know the sex of the posters who contributed to your list. Many of the likes seem to me coming from the lady readers.

    Just wondering.

  16. I remember this list, it's a good one. I feel the same way about odd made up fantasy names. I recently opened a published fantasy in the store and set it right down--with five such people and place names right up front, it was a wall I didn't choose to scale. I like recognizable words used in a new way as names, like Pacer, or building on something we already know, like Cleomina.

  17. Glad to see this list. I know what I want to see as a reader, but it is always better to see what other people want to read.

    I'm a great fan of Barbara Michaels. Her flawless writing has humor, good dialog, twisting plots that build to a satisfactory ending and great characters. Her ghost stories are chilling. The settings are vivide and her characters are layered.

    If I can be half the writer she is, I could be proud of my work.

    We all need something to work towards. This list is has given me more goals for my novels.

    I'm new to this blog. I like it a lot.

  18. An excellent list, LJ! I'm going to pass on today's link to my author clients and post it on Facebook and Twitter!

    I'd like to see more books set in a locale where I haven't been - so I can find out more about other interesting places.

    I love historical fiction for the glimpse into other times - but as others have said, the author needs to do their research, so it's as authentic as it can be.

    And I LOVE romantic suspense!

  19. What a great idea to get input from readers like that. I am saving the responses for referral later.

    And I agree with what Dani asked for. I love books that give us something better than real life.

  20. That could almost be my list, if I'd really sat down to think about it. Great list.

    Morgan Mandel


The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.


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