The stories people love are as varied as we are. There is no single right way to do it. Instead, like all good fiction, we make it up based on what we ourselves enjoy.
Personally, I'm a major fantasy and sci-fi fan, but at the same time, it seems like it harder to find GOOD sci-fi and fantasy than something like historical fiction or thrillers.
What's even more interesting is categorizing your book and using the right keywords to help it get found. You have to step back, look at it objectively, and decide what it's about. Now, some authors manage to do this before they ever write the book.
I could be projecting my own insecurities with my preferred method of writing (Pantsing), but I always see Plotters as the kinds of people who not only know every step their MC's will take before they ever start writing, but that they've also researched what the best kind of story to write would be.
They know the tropes for their genre, they know what readers expect for the style of story, and they're prepared with the necessary keywords, categories, and minor storylines needed to give it life.
They've created an outline, letting themselves know where the character will be through each chapter. I can see it being very neat, tidy, and absolutely not working for me.
And you know what?
Those books sell like hotcakes. Readers know exactly what they're getting, and they love it.
But Those Aren't the Stories I Love
I can enjoy those books to a certain degree, if I'm in the right mood, but they're not something I'll keep buying.
I love the stories that provide a meaningful look at real, normal life, in a fantastical setting. Everything I've learned about people, humans, and the human condition, I've learned from books.
That was where I first began empathizing with people other than myself, people who were different in major ways. Through books, you not only see things from another perspective, you cheer for them, desire their success, crave it.
I could list authors, but not individual books, not really.
And I LOVE female led action.
It's something that's too rare, and usually, when you do run across it, the author makes what I consider questionable choices with her.
For example, one thing I've seen several times was a woman r*ped or s3xually assaulted with the intent to make her 'strong.' (These are often male writers. Occasionally female, but I had to look it up because the mentality seemed so damn toxic.)
WHAT THE FUCK, PEOPLE!!
That is not what strength is really about.
And stop glorifying assault and violence against women!
We deal with enough of that, and women have a pretty damn good idea how you turn out. We already know what it's like to deal with violence, and we know that getting 'stronger' is absolute bullshit.
Maybe there's violence done to a woman, but don't make it gratuitous. And you definitely shouldn't imply women were weak before they were assaulted.
As if the only way to be strong is to survive that shit.
The Stories I Love
The stories that truly reach me (and if the popularity of the authors is any indication, they reach a lot of people) are the ones that show the truth of who we are as people, even if it's only a small part of it, in story form.
Whether I'll ever be an author capable of that remains to be seen, but one thing I've found interesting:
Most of Them are Pantsers
I can't speak for every author I adore, but the vast majority of the authors who really bring people to life that I've read are Pantsers.
Meaning, they fly by the seat of their pants when it comes to storytelling. They know where they're starting, they might know where it ends, but everything in the middle is a mystery until they write it.
This can be completely different from worldbuilding. Then, you're assembling ideas that you might have to fit a specific setting or plot, without actually creating an outline.
Garth Nix, Diana Gabaldon, Terry Pratchett, Louis L'Amour...I could go on.
Then you've got Brandon Sanderson, who seems to operate on a mish-mash of both. I have no idea how that man's brain works, but he's brilliant.
So Tell Me...
What stories light you up the most?
What do you look for? What makes you love a book?