What is good storytelling?

Today’s Round Robin topic: What glues you to a story start to finish? And/Or what hooks do you use to capture your readers?

This is an interesting question because I don’t generally think in terms of what keeps me reading, but rather in terms of what will turn me off. So, thinking in terms of what keeps me reading is a bit of a switch. I know what I like, but defining it is new. What am I looking for? In essence, good storytelling. But what is good storytelling? My list may be different from yours, but this is mine.

  1. The protagonists are sympathetic and likable. I want to root for them to win, to overcome, to escape, to do whatever it is that they need to do.
  2. I want to see a character arc. There doesn’t have to be a huge amount of growth, but a realistic amount for the story line. Some characters will grow more than others, and that’s fine.
  3. The characters stay true to the personality the author has established. If they do something out of character, there better be a good reason for it that is germane to the story line and character.
  4. The story is somewhat unpredictable. I like happy endings, but I don’t want to be able to predict how I am going to get to that happy ending. I think this is why I am a pantser rather than a plotter. Once I start plotting out my entire story, I lose all interest in it. Of course, my characters will often change my plans anyway. For instance, in my upcoming release The Whispering House, I had planned on writing this one scene, but my characters decided that they wanted to have sex at that time. Or the opposite happens. I thought it was time for a sex scene, but the characters completely disagreed. Part of why I find my stories fun to write is because I never quite know what I’m going to write.
  5. Grammar and punctuation. I know there will be errors no matter how hard you try to eradicate them, but I expect well-written prose. If there are errors and a lot of them, I will be lost.
  6. Correct facts, especially in historical or science fiction novels. Well, in any, really.
  7. A good blend between description and action. No data dumps.
  8. Regardless of the genre, I want the story to be believable. Even if it’s fantasy, the author must build their world, and their story, in such a way that I can suspend belief, if that’s necessary, to be able to accept that this story is possible.
  9. I also like a mood to be set. It can be eerie, tense, blissful, but I want it set up and continued.
  10. Oh, and action up front.

Apparently, I have a lot more criteria than I realized. LOL It’s good to know. Ultimately, it comes down to good storytelling.

So, what hooks you? What do you look for in a story?

Authors participating in this month’s Round Robin: