I have just finished Brent Weeks' The Black Prism, and as I gather my collective thoughts about what the experience has been I consider a question I had asked several of my friends in hope of edging out an idea on what I should eventually write a book about.
"What kinds of stories do you like to read?"
I have discovered I really like action. I like the tension of reading about a character's charge through enemy lines and not knowing if they will be struck down. I like the rise of heroes and the telling of the defeat and victory. the book was good and the fantasy staple of a world with magic in it is taken to a different direction in this novel. However I really wasn't getting into it until I was about 1/3 of the way through the book. Mr. Weeks' Night Angel trilogy had me nearly at the beginning as I read about these people in a terrible situation up against all sorts of odds. I wasn't quite as taken in this time early on, however the last half of the book had me wanting to read more, and the last few chapters swept by as I couldn't put the book down.
There's more to liking just action, however. For one it can't be gratuitous body parts being shorn and blood and gore, I skim those sections. What really interests me is how the characters, if I've come to care about their success, will get out alive. Many novels I've written are brutal to characters I come to identify with or care about. As soon as one of those characters is done in, my interest in completing a work drops measurably. I don't care to see if they are avenged or not, the narrative hook that had me buy into the story was gone. Killing off named characters doesn't make for a bad story, in fact it's sort of unrealistic if the heroes never suffer any losses, however if there was significant time put into building up a character, the jarring loss halfway or later in a novel unseats me and diminishes my enthusiasm.
If my friends have anything to teach me, its that when I get to writing my story(ies?) my characters better be flawed, human, strong in a few areas, but weak in others, and hopefully, engaging enough to have an interest that lasts. I probably shouldn't just off them either. Probably.