Fiction and Writing

What I Look For In A Book.

What I Look For In An Urban Fantasy Book

 

This feels a little bit like writing ‘what I look for in my ideal man’ lol. My ideal book is adventurous, with bright sparkling blue eyes and a tight ass… ahem.

You’re all aware that I’m an indie author, I write and adore urban fantasy. I’m also an avid reader, I celebrate things by putting shiny new books on my kindle. I absolutely adore books. I’m also a very fussy reader, I have high standards and particular tastes.

It won’t come as any surprise to anyone that my primary genre is urban fantasy, really that’s also my secondary and tertiary genre too, I really love urban fantasy. That wasn’t always the case though, I read a lot of horror and thrillers through my teens. I migrated mostly to non-fiction in my late teens. Urban fantasy is my comfy, squishy, happy place though. That’s what I look for first.

I put down perhaps 85% of the books that I try – the look inside feature is a godsend! The vast majority of books that I show any interest in are put aside before the end of the first chapter. If you consider all the books that I don’t even click through from the cover, or I dislike the blurb of, I pick up perhaps 5% of the books I look at. I’m really fussy and particular.

So what do I look for in a book? What makes me choose to put it on my kindle?

First of all, the cover. If that doesn’t catch my eye then I won’t even get as far as the title. It has to be professional and include the key genre cues that my subconscious has come to associate with books I love. That being said, I have looked at books completely outside of my usual reading purely because they had a stunning cover. I love cover art. I love art in general, but I have spent hours just browsing covers and admiring the artistry there.

Assuming the cover caught my eye, the title has to then do the same. Then we’re into the blurb. I’m not a big romance reader, and there’s a very distinct feeling of paranormal romance taking over urban fantasy, so if I see a romantic focus in the blurb, I move on. I love a good romantic subplot, but for me, it has to be a subplot, not the focus.

If the blurb sounds good, then I’ll go and read the critical reviews. I’m not interested in the four and five star reviews. They’ll just be gushing about how amazing it is. I want to know what the flaws are. If they’re things that I don’t think will bother me, then I read the look-inside. If they do seem like they’ll bother me, I move on.

Now we’re into the actual book.

The writing has to hook me. It has to grab me and make me eager to keep reading. For that to happen there has to be a clear feeling of tension and forward progression. I have no patience for slow-paced books. The narrator also has to have a voice that I enjoy. I’ve put down a lot of books for a narrator that bothered me. One was very noir, and I found the descriptions to be too much, they got in the way. Another was arrogant and shallow, and so on and so forth.

It doesn’t necessarily have to be a huge fight, but there has to be a feeling of tension, a question posed to get me wanting to read more. From there I want deep and interesting characters. I want characters that have realistic and interesting motivations. I want a good quick-pace that keeps me turning the page and wanting to know what happens next. I have no patience for long descriptions or walls of dialogue.

I like a world that I can lose myself in. Something vivid that I can hold in my mind and take pleasure in exploring on my own terms. There should be depth and nuance there. I also like a plot that builds on itself before it comes crashing into a big crescendo. There have to be reasonable stakes there. The characters have to be well enough developed that I give a damn, that I’m rooting for someone.

Now this doesn’t necessarily have to be high-octane, or even urban fantasy. I love Maggie Stiefvater’s The Raven Cycle. It’s probably one of my all time favourite series. That’s not high-octane. It’s beautifully crafted, it elegantly unfurls and has gorgeously rich characters. Then there’s The Magpie Lord that’s a m/m paranormal romance – I picked it up because it had magpies as the focus and I adore corvids, particularly ravens and magpies. That again has these glorious, wonderful characters and a rich world. I was swept off my feet in the best possible way.

I suppose really, characters make it for me. I love Tybalt in the October Daye books, I love all of the characters really but I want a Tybalt. The world in The Final Formula is rich and wonderful, but those characters make it into something so much more. I’d love to have a conversation with Addie and Rowan, and have a night on the town with James. The plot in Owl and the Japanese Circus was brilliant, the world was vivid, but it was Owl and her friends that really kept me coming back for more.

I try to apply these things that I love to my own writing. I write books that I want to read, that I love. I’m going to be incredibly sad when I have to say goodbye to Evie and co, I love them to bits. I really hope that some day there’ll be someone talking about my books the way I talk to just about everyone about the books I love. 🙂

Tell me what you look for in a good book!

 

HollySiggy

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11 thoughts on “What I Look For In A Book.

  1. Like you I am INCREDIBLY fussy when it comes to books. It’s so bad I’ve not actually read a decent book in months because the last half a dozen I’ve tried to read (Including High Rise by JD Ballard) just didn’t catch me at all. I was reading them and like “why am I reading, I don’t care what these characters are going through?”

    While the plot, the setting and the theme of the book should catch me, it’s the language and the characters that keep me reading. The last awesome book I read was Wake of Vultures by Lila Bowen. It’s about a girl who wants to be a cowboy who accidentally discovers a whole full of vampires and monsters when she kills a vampire. It’s just so good. There are themes of not knowing who you are, trying to come to terms with being different from other people. But it was Nettie that kept me reading. I cared about her, her struggles with her identity, to find her place in the world.
    The language is simple and direct. No purple prose, no huge exposition. It reads as if she’s telling you the story. That’s what I like. Simple prose that doesn’t get in the way of the character s or the plot. It’s what I strive for too when I’m writing myself.
    I do enjoy *slightly* purple prose, like in a book called The Crooked House (It’s a crime thriller by a woman whose name escapes me at the moment >_>) But the lyrical quality never gets in the way of Alison and her struggled to find out if her father did indeed murder her family. It’s just part of what makes the book so well written and beautiful.

    When a book takes too long to get started it can be frustrating too. Like I’ve read a few books where it feels where absolutely nothing happens (it happens in a couple of the ones I’ve tried writing too!) and you finish it and go “Wow, that was well written but SO BORING” So high stakes are always good too. It doesn’t need to be world ending, high personal stakes are sometimes more interesting than global ones… I guess it just depends on what the book is about and how well it’s written.

    I think I’ve blathered on enough. Let’s just say I know how to feel when it comes to books. Trying to be a writer myself I find so many flaws in books I try to read…and most of them get pitched across the room in frustration, lol.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know exactly what you mean about pitching books across the room lol. There have been so many where I’ve got one paragraph in and gone nope. Either the attitude is wrong, the character is perfect, and strong, and sexy, and fights in high heels and blah blah. Or they’re whiny and hard done by. Or it has the cliche looking in a mirror thing so we can admire how beautiful they are but they think they’re plain *eye roll* lol.

      I have no patience for purple prose either. Just say the door’s green, the paint’s peeling, and bring out the bloody monster lol.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Perfect characters UGH. I’ve such issues with perfection IRL I don’t want to be confronted with it in a book I’m using to run away from my problems with lol. Nobody likes perfect people. Perfection is BORING. It leaves no room for conflict, for change. For resolution.
        I actually wrote a short story a million years ago where my character did that whole looking in the mirror thing so I had a way of describing what she looks like. I’m so ashamed haha. I wouldn’t mind so much but I thought it was so ~original~ and ~creative~ to use a mirror to describe her instead of just y’know, describing her.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I asked a similar question on my blog a while ago, and got some amazing answers! They were all rather long and detailed, though, so I’ll try to keep it short 😉
    Like you, my go-to genre is fantasy but I’ve been adding a bit of scifi reading to my list as well. The first thing that needs to grab me is the cover. I love book cover art, and when I see a book where the cover has clearly been done by someone who has no idea what they’re doing I won’t read the blurb. Your book cover is like the first five seconds of meeting a new person, and the very first impression you make on a potential reader, so I think you should put some effort into it.
    If I like the cover (like you, I’ve picked up books outside my usual genre just because I loved the cover) I’ll move to the blurb. If the blurb sounds interesting (I’m a little more lenient there, because it’s not easy to summarise your whole novel – without huge spoilers – in such a small space) I read the first page. If I’m hooked after the first page and want to read on, I buy it 🙂
    I don’t know who said not to judge a book by its cover – the cover art definitely matters!! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Definitely! I love cover art, and like you said they’re so important. I could have missed out on some great books because the covers were poorly done, but, I don’t want to take that risk to be honest.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I agree. There are so many fantastic books on my TBR list already that I have to draw the line somewhere, and a poorly made cover tells me that the writer isn’t 100% committed. It’s how a book introduces itself to me. It’s important.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I go through a similar process of finding a book. The cover draws me in but it’s the blurb and first few pages that have to seal the deal. Sometimes, if I’m uncertain, I’ll go look up reviews as well. But I’m always willing to pick up a new fantasy series & give it a try. It’s the other genres that I’m more careful about perusing because they’re harder for me to get into. I also try to be aware of books that are hyped about because I’m always concerned that I’ll be underwhelmed in the end.
    I find it hard to give up on a book and it takes a really drab one with no character development and no real plot to get me to put it down.
    In the end, reading the book is the only way to judge the story it contains 🙂
    Great post. Really got me thinking ❤

    Liked by 1 person

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