I recently wrote about the Ten Rules for Fiction Writers from The Guardian that writers are still chatting about online. Now comes, in Salon, A Reader's Advice to Writers, specifically aimed at novelists.
What do readers want?
1. A protagonist who wants something.
2. A protagonist who does something.
3. Story/Characters/Theme/Setting, in that order.
4. Beautiful prose style isn't that important.
5. "A sense of humor couldn't hurt."
Hmm. Okay. Thanks to this reader for this advice. But I'm a reader, too, in addition to being a writer. I find that "funny" gets in the way, often. That's not the kind of book I like to read, and that's not the kind of book I write. And while I recognize that "beautiful prose style" isn't important to many/most readers (otherwise John Grisham would still be practicing law in Mississippi), it does help set the ordinary book apart from the extraordinary, and I don't know any writer who is thrilled about ordinary. I can't argue with the first three on the list though, and they're good to remember as I put the finishing touches on my novel.