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27 January 2014 @ 03:17 am
come on all you fox-girls and you ghost girls and you pretty pirates  
I am picking up the December posting meme again, because I'm just that awesome!

imbecamiel asked, What makes you love a book?

The short answer to this is: characters. I need protagonists that I like and sympathise with. They don't necessarily have to be good people, but I still have to empathise with them (even if it's while simultaneously thinking, "Wow, you're a terrible person!" I'm having a problem coming up with an example off the top of my head, but the movie In Bruges would be a perfect one. If it were a book.) When I don't care about anyone I tend to wonder why I'm reading a book at all and wind up totally hating it. (See: Wuthering Heights.)

Also definitely important is the story itself, and the worldbuilding, and how both of those relate back to the characters. I like plots which are expanding, and uplifting, and end with the characters being better and deeper than they were before. I love stories which are difficult, and dangerous, but are ultimately about growth and joy. Sam Vimes and October Daye and Tiffany Aching and Miles Vorkosigan and Lirael and Tris.

There are some genres in which I'm more likely to find books I love -- sci-fi and fantasy over real life; although Anne Fine's All Bones and Lies is one of my comfort reads, and "traditional" male-dominated SFF leaves me cold. Guy Gavriel Kay's alternate history over actual history, with exceptions for Rosemary Sutcliff. Stories about women. Stories about young girls being powerful and changing the world.

I love... imagination. Patriarchal romance is boring when there are lesbian sky-pirates and bloggers documenting the zombie apocalypse and female faerie private investigators and Regency academic magicians and crystal dragons which are the secret hearts of mountains. I love stories which show that there's more, and characters who embrace that.

These are books which I love.

Posted at http://frith-in-thorns.dreamwidth.org/116872.html with comment count unavailable comments.
 
 
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Sholiosholio on January 27th, 2014 07:22 am (UTC)
Characters ... yes. :) I think I used to read more for worldbuilding but have gravitated to being much more character-focused over the years. Some of the older sci-fi and fantasy novels I used to love fall flat for me now, and there's something terribly disappointing about SO MANY older spec-fic novels with gorgeous, creative worldbuilding and yet a cast of characters who are bland and flat and never really do anything (well, except run around the world questing, or whatever the plot says they're supposed to do). A lot of the older "classic" sci-fi especially strikes me that way, because it's usually just Boring Hero Guy in the middle of a very fascinating world ... but it's hard to care when Boring Hero has no one to interact with (except maybe a random love interest lady who doesn't get to do anything).

And yeah, I realize that the whole point to some novels is how awful everyone is, but mostly it just makes me wonder why I'm wasting my time spending my time with a bunch of incredibly unlikable people. Which is one of the main reasons I don't read a lot of "literary" fiction ... I like it just fine when the characters grab me (I mean, I don't need the spec-fic element to be engaged), but so often the whole point seems to be that the characters are banal and awful, trapped in their miserable, humorless world. Why would I want to endure 300 pages of that?

So yes, likable characters FTW!

Edited at 2014-01-27 07:23 am (UTC)
Frith: Booksfrith_in_thorns on January 28th, 2014 03:14 am (UTC)
I feel like your second paragraph perfectly sums up why I want to set GRRM's writing ON FIRE XD
Sally M: reading 7sallymn on January 27th, 2014 09:06 am (UTC)
I'm with you on character, oh yes - quite a few of my most beloved books are really Not Very Good books, but I fell in love with enough of the people to overlook even glaring faults...

Mind you, I can also simply fall in love with the language to the point that the words matter more than the story, but then that's me...
imbecamiel on January 27th, 2014 04:28 pm (UTC)
Mmm, yes, definitely the characters for me as well. :) There are some books I can enjoy just because the whole idea is so fascinating, or the style is mind-blowing, but it's rare that I really love that sort of book. Book or movie, if I can't really like the characters and find them interesting I'm probably soon going to give up in frustration. And if the "point" is that everyone's awful and there's no one for you to really cheer for... I'm likely to wind up far more disgusted with the author than with humanity in general.

And conversely, there have certainly been stories where I'm well aware that the author's style ranges from fair to terrible, the historical accuracy is iffy at best, and the plots can stretch logic and realism pretty thin... and yet I am so utterly in love with the characters that I'll read and re-read the books anyway, and they become my happy "comfort food" books.
leesa_perrie: Booksleesa_perrie on January 27th, 2014 04:38 pm (UTC)
Hmm, you got me thinking about what books I'm reading atm. I ended up making a post!
http://leesa-perrie.livejournal.com/451724.html
squee is a universal language: book lovenaye on January 27th, 2014 09:23 pm (UTC)
Beautifully put! And thanks again for introducing me to October Daye - definitely one of the best new discoveries of 2013 for me.
Frith: Flailfrith_in_thorns on January 28th, 2014 03:18 am (UTC)
You're very welcome -- it was my best discovery too! Totally one of those books I couldn't help but flail about at the top of my voice to anyone who would listen.
m rohrmrohr1 on January 28th, 2014 02:26 am (UTC)
Oh, yeah, my favorite books are usually the ones where I really connect with the characters. Though the world-building is important for me, too. I love the books where I can fall wholly into the story, and I basically cease to exist while I'm reading (the world of the book is all that exists). Thus, I tend not to enjoy books with unpleasant worlds or characters. I think I need to try out more of the books you've mentioned, though, since I'm already sort of in love with about half the characters you mention here. ;)

Have you read Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor? (It's the first book in a trilogy; the third book will be published in April.) I have a hard time describing the book without giving anything away, but I definitely recommend it! --m
kriadydragon: Beastkriadydragon on January 30th, 2014 03:30 am (UTC)
Characters, yes! One of my biggest pet peeves in fantasy and sci-fi are interesting worlds without equally interesting characters to go with them. But when the character is just as interesting as the world around them then it's the best thing ever, and I love that book to pieces.