(A writer emailed to ask, “What makes a book engaging?” I, who am constantly in need of topics upon which to write blog posts, did a little huzzah.)
What makes a book engaging? Back up. What does a (fiction) book actually do for a reader? What is this mysterious “entertainment” that writers aspire to?
I feel like that goes across genres. Another way to name those things might be “setting, plot, character, and theme.” Or rather: “In order to entertain a reader, you have to have a good setting in order to provide them escape from reality; a good plot in order to keep them hooked even when the outside world tries to intrude; good characters in order to let them walk in someone else’s shoes; and a good perspective on the story, as an author, so that the reader finds meaning in the story even after they’ve closed the book.”
I highly advise prioritizing plot last. First take someone out of their world by engaging them with the other three, and then worry about holding them there.