For me it's a complex algebraic soup that's difficult to predict.
For one novel I have to see a + b + c + d
, for another I only need a + b
, and others it might be a case of (a^2 - (b/4 + x))/y
and no c
For example plausibility might be a major concern for me in one book, but may be totally irrelevant in another. Characters I can relate to might be vital in one but in another can fill me with complete apathy (or even disgust) and still remain successful.
Even the sophistication of the writing is not a guaranteed quality for me. Sometimes, simple writing just works better.
Bad grammar and a mass of typos will nearly never impress, but that's more a basic requirement rather than part of the magic.
Occasionally even a book not following its own internal logic isn't enough to create a
Any rule I try to make is likely to be broken with the very next book I open. But there are a few universals I guess:
If after I've finished I continue to think about and remember the book, that's a good thing. Sometimes this can last for months. Some of the books I read in high school still linger after over 20 years (Crime and Punishment, Lord of the Flies, The Outsider, Of Mine and Men etc..)
If I'm hankering to get back to the book when interrupted by life, that's a pretty good sign.
If I want to talk about the book with others that's positive (unless it's to explain how terrible it was)
If I start purchasing the same book for other people as a gift, that's a bit of an endorsement.
Of course these are all "what" rather than "why", but that's the only thing I can be sure of.