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Old December 4 2009, 05:25 AM   #1
StarshipDefiant
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What do you, the reader, look for?

Forgive me if this is not a good topic for this area, but as this relates (and I am mostly thinking from a fic point of view) to this area, I thought it would probably be safe to post here. My question is, what do you, the reader (and/or fellow writer) look for when seeking out a fic/story to read? Any sort of particular element with the story, characters, etc...? Continuing onwards, what sort of thing do you the reader (and/or fellow writer) wish to see within a fic/story that may, or may not be often explored (and in a writers case, a question of whether they feel they could properly explore it or not), or briefly touched upon but either not resolved or gone into the direction one thought it might have gone.

In short, to quote the mysterious Mr. Morden, "What do you want?"
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Old December 4 2009, 06:06 AM   #2
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Re: What do you, the reader, look for?

1) Something unique. Something I haven't read before.
2) No "shipping"
3) Something that has a philosophical point. Not just uber-battles, unless there's a point to that too.
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Old December 4 2009, 07:19 AM   #3
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Re: What do you, the reader, look for?

I look for good, solid characters who are portrayed consistently by their writer. The era, the type of ship, even the challenges or antagonists opposing the characters are as important as whether the characters themselves are vital and interesting.

If you've got good characters, everything else is window-dressing.
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Old December 4 2009, 08:13 AM   #4
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Re: What do you, the reader, look for?

Something simple and easy to get into.
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Old December 4 2009, 08:41 AM   #5
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Re: What do you, the reader, look for?

I need to be able to feel for the characters--at least some of them need to be sympathetic, especially your main character unless someone is ready to dish out the ass-kicking he/she deserves. Darkness just for the sake of darkness I don't care for...it has to have a purpose. The characters need to feel like real people.

I also need for the plots, missions, and settings to be something I care about. DS9-related stuff is my favorite--VOY stuff I connect with the least, and I tend to ignore it.
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Old December 4 2009, 09:01 AM   #6
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Re: What do you, the reader, look for?

I primarily look for compelling characterization, consistency, and complexity of story line. If it's predictable or cliched, I won't read past the first post or two. The same goes for if the characters feel like flat, cardboard cutouts instead of real people. I really like when people take a conceit that has been done before but manage to bring something fresh and new to the concept. I also gravitate toward DS9 or TOS fanfic, not as wild about TNG or VOY, but if a story really grabs me, the source material doesn't matter so much. An Alternate Universe story has to really be exceptional to hold my attention, and the world has to feel real and fleshed out.

Nobody likes to hear this, but also grammar is a big deal. I'm forgiving of a few typos here and there. We all make them. However, if I'm scratching my head trying to figure out who is talking, what a sentence even means, or there are serious spelling and punctuation issues scattered throughout, I will give up on a story very quickly. Grammar issues throw me right out of the narrative and keep me there.

Yeah, I'm fairly picky. The fact is that I have limited time for leisure, and there are literally thousands of stories out there. I look for the ones that give me the most bang for my buck as far as time spent goes. As far as what I like to write best, I like to take either minor characters or ones that people typically perceive as villains and flesh them out or show them in a new light. I like the challenge of making someone the reader has a preconceived notion about disliking and showing them something admirable without glossing over the flaws, even if they don't like to admit it. Fun stuff.
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Old December 4 2009, 01:50 PM   #7
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Re: What do you, the reader, look for?

Good characterization, like everyone else said, is key. I need to care about the people, and they need to feel real to me. I also need to believe they would do what they are doing in the story, whether they are canon characters or your own creations. As PSGarak said, consistency is important.

Grammar is also far more important to me than it is to most people because I've been editing and proofreading at my job for ten years. So I tend to notice every little mistake (I notice this in published novels, as well -- inconsistencies in the spelling of a character's name, typos, that kind of thing). It sucks the enjoyment right out of a story for me because I go into "editor mode." I can't follow a story if there's too much of that. I'll sometimes suffer through a short piece that isn't up to quality standards if it's otherwise exceptional, but a chapter book/fic? Sorry, can't do it. It's nothing personal.

I don't like battle porn, and I don't like actual porn. Violence and sex can serve the story, but it shouldn't be the other way around.

Unlike many around here, I do like a good romance. Trek never handled romance well, and it's been fun to see that aspect explored in some of the better fic both here and at Ad Astra. I get weary of a story where that's the only thing going on, but I get a little bored by stories that don't have any at all. When the characters care about each other, it helps me care about them more.

Basically, I look for something I can lose myself in for a few minutes at a time. If it feels like a little break from reality, it's a good story. If I find myself thinking about it a couple of hours later, it's a great story! (... and there are some great stories around here!)
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Last edited by kes7; December 4 2009 at 03:12 PM. Reason: because "grammar nazis" make typos, too
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Old December 4 2009, 08:19 PM   #8
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Re: What do you, the reader, look for?

I agree with some of the above. Characters worth knowing, grammar that is clean, and intriguing ideas. One thing I'll add-reasonably sized postings. There are a couple of great authors around here I ignore not because I dislike their stuff but, like PSGarak, I only have so much time to read. Usually it's my lunch hour. Anything over 4000 words is too much to get through, as I'm usually tracking multiple stories at any given time. For those authors that think I don't like to read their stories, or that I start commenting on in the beginning and then drop off, it's about volume, not preference.
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Old December 4 2009, 10:53 PM   #9
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Re: What do you, the reader, look for?

I love interesting characters as much as the next guy but I'm looking for an engaging plot as well. You can have the most engaging characters but if your story doesn't go anywhere, I usually get bored.

I'm also big on pace. I like stories that have a nice flow and smart dialogue. Stories jam-packed with prose, or stories in which the author uses ten paragraphs just to figure out what the protagonist is going to have for breakfast are usually not for me.

I don't generally read stories about canon characters or based directly on one of the shows. There are plenty of novels for that. And chances are good that the author won't quite do the characters justice in my opinion. But I love original stuff, new characters, new ships, new situations. It's such a massive universe, there are so many interesting stories to tell.

I'm not a perfectionist and I tend to be forgiving about weak spelling and grammar even though I do agree that it takes you out of a good story.

Lately I've found myself with less and less time to read fan-fic and I tend to stick to stuff from authors who have shown interest in my own work or in a few cases, only read stories which are so engaging that I can't help myself.
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Old December 4 2009, 10:57 PM   #10
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Re: What do you, the reader, look for?

All the obvious things really, something interesting that doesn't take too long to get started. Dialog that sounds 'real' is important and something that I strive to achieve in my own forays into writing! I'm also experimenting with giving my characters lives outside of Starfleet - something that characters in Starfleet seem to lack generally. By this I mean the vast majority are single people who appear to sacrifice relationships in favour of Starfleet service - the characters of the Original Series, Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager and Enterprise are all single with a few exceptions - this doesn't seem particularly realistic to me so seeing people with family back home appeals to me.
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Old December 5 2009, 07:54 AM   #11
6of9
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Re: What do you, the reader, look for?

  • Stardate and/or contemporary calendar date in order to instantly latch onto the time period & follow the flow of the author's original intent.
  • Recaps (in the event the story is a follow-up to one of TNG's famous "loose ends".)
  • Shipper connections (Straight/Gay/Lesbian/Transgendered) as it seems odd to me that you interact with people/families on your deck in the next cabin over from you every single day. I'm from a redneck town of 32,000 people. Stuff happens.
  • It seems odd to me that in canon Trek Lit, you don't see more openly sexual relationships. You depend on other crew-persons on your (ship, colony, starbase, shipyard) for your very survival in space but aren't the slightest bit tempted to arrange a booty-call with ~any~ of them. Especially considering how long TOS-era (three year) missions were & then, TNG's open-ended Voyager-style missions. I find booty-calls in Trek story arcs longer than a vignette, intrinsically important to "The Human Experience". I think, regardless of the century, a woman or a guy are going to get their noses out of line from time to time if their crush much prefers holosuite characters to 'Them'.
  • A good story that has a sense of feasible/plausible action. Starfleet ships that actually take damage, core breach & people actually die.
  • Fantastic description. Someone that can paint the sight and smell of a colony science-station basement as you're creeping on the balls of your feet and about to drop something unpleasant in your shorts if the thing you're tracking finds out which side you're most vulnerable on.
  • Someone that knows how to describe a modified TMP or TNG-era frankenstein fleet ship that's been sent out as "bait" for something that's recently woken-up.
  • More Geordi/Wesley "mentor/protege" relationships but let's not go to Mary Sue extremes with it.
  • A story that "wraps-around". A story that begins with a slam-bang battle scene at the end of the story. The narrator then (via a Duty / Personal Log Entry,) segues into a flashback, describing the events leading up to the battle & conclusion.
  • I agree with Lazarus about personal relationships. I'd like to see more "uncomfortable moments" at Thanksgiving on Shore / Compassionate Leave.

Last edited by 6of9; December 5 2009 at 08:08 AM.
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Old December 5 2009, 08:08 AM   #12
Nerys Ghemor
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Re: What do you, the reader, look for?

I should add something else I really like in stories.

I want to be able to see and feel the world of your story not just as a movie, but experience it through the characters--to understand how they perceive it, how they feel. I want to be immersed in their world, not just watch it as if from afar.
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Old December 5 2009, 08:30 AM   #13
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Re: What do you, the reader, look for?

6of9 wrote: View Post
Someone that knows how to describe a modified TMP or TNG-era frankenstein fleet ship that's been sent out as "bait" for something that's recently woken-up.
I think you just summarized my series in a single sentence.
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Old December 5 2009, 07:25 PM   #14
Nerys Ghemor
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Re: What do you, the reader, look for?

LOL, I know...that was the first thing I thought of, too!
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Old December 5 2009, 08:32 PM   #15
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Re: What do you, the reader, look for?

Thanks for the answers, everyone it's an interesting read, and really makes me think about approaches and how I did stuff in the past. Another part of the question, is there a preference to the era, or even the genere? Trek? Non trek? if it's trek, the era part comes in.
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