Which element of a book is most important to you?

The other day, I broke down my review into three main elements: voice, character, and plot. To me, these are the basics of good-storytelling. None are terribly easy to define, and there’s a whole lot of subjectivity involved. Suffice to say, if one of these falls flat for you, the odds of finishing a given book more than likely go way down. Personally, I don’t have a problem not finishing a book if it doesn’t work for me on these three basics. There are times when I can tell the writing is well done, but for whatever reason, it just doesn’t work for me.

Voice is the biggest factor. If the author’s voice doesn’t hit the right notes, it doesn’t matter how fabulous the characters are or how cool the plot is. If there’s a great author voice, I can put up with weaker elements, though I still have to like them. I’ll handle lackluster character development if the plot kicks ass. If the plot doesn’t interest me, voice and character won’t save it. I find it pretty rare for a book to hit it on all cylinders. Again, this is subjective. My favorite book is someone else’s recycling.

So, what is it that works or doesn’t work for you? Is character the big deciding factor? Have to have that intricate plot? Curious how readers decide these things.

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4 responses to “Which element of a book is most important to you?

  1. I’m all about the characters. Good characters are what keep me enthralled in a book, but sometimes mediocre characters can get by if there is an excellent plot. Voice doesn’t matter all that much to me most of the time, but on the rare occasion the author’s voice is spectacular, I’ll keep reading regardless of the plot or characters. The only thing that can’t stand alone is plot. If that’s the only thing the book has going for it, I probably won’t read it. The characters would have to be at least mildly interesting.

    I guess really, what I’m trying to say, is it takes all three to make a book work, even if they are all only mediocre. As long as they don’t suck completely, I can keep reading.

  2. For me it’s a mix of character and plot. Both have to be strong for me to like the book. If one of them is lacking I might finish the book but I won’t read it a second time. The books I love hit all three and leave me thinking ‘Wow, I wish I could write like that.’