(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?

  • Escape.
  • Distraction.
  • Empathy.
  • Perspective.

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.