Things that authors do that really make them stand out are when they branch away from what’s already out there and try to put their own spin on things. Sometimes this is a startlingly original plot line, something I’ve never seen in the Twilight fandom, sometimes it’s the personification of the characters, sometimes it’s the writing style. It’s hard to pinpoint the exact attributes of the writers I admire, but they usually have at least one of the above qualities, sometimes more. I also enjoy authors who don’t explain things in lengthy author’s notes. If it’s a part of the story, it shouldn’t have to be explained (except for maybe a quick translation of a few non-English words, or something along those lines). Authors who update regularly also stand out to me.
I really like authors who take the time to explore characterizations and who choose their words carefully. I also love a great metaphor and am a sucker for imagery. Oh and alliteration turns me on.
I like stories that have a direction and move along at a decent pace. Building up suspense is great, but I think in fic, sometimes stories stall or drag on too long. I lose interest when this happens.
I love authors that take their time choosing the words they use. Stella Luna Sky and in.a.blue.bathrobe write fic like they’re writing poetry. Just beautifully.
Most of all, an original plot. Also, something that focuses more on just the relationship dynamics between Edward and Bella, that has something else to say besides how two people hook up.
I look for originality–in the storyline, in dialogue, in characters, in writing style. I recognize that, as we are writing derivative fiction, we are all toying with someone else’s original story and characters, but I have found many writers who come up with new and creative ways of exploring those characters.
Additionally, a writer who can make me feel something–no matter if it’s sad, happy, angry, what have you–is a writer who has me in the palm of their hand.
They research to know their subject matter, pace the story well (realistically), realistically age their characters and use a thesaurus.
If the author knows her characters and story really well, it comes across in the writing. I love a story where, from the first chapter, the characters are gripping and coherent and their development is well-written throughout every chapter.
Making sure their fics are beta’d well is always appreciated. It’s an absolute pleasure to read a fic where nothing is misspelled, homonyms aren’t confused, commas are in the right place, and the semi colon isn’t abused. I also worship at the alter of quality dialogue – knowing a character’s reactions and speech patterns, understanding the dynamic of realistic conversation, etc. makes a huge difference to readability of a fic. I also very much appreciate it when writers make the effort to make their characters believable, particularly when a woman is writing from a male point of view.
Unique characterizations. Not the typical, E is a doc and B is a librarian/English teacher whatever. Something that is different and helps me distinguish them from the other fics I read. I enjoy “smart” fic, again not the typical stereotypes etc.
There are a couple of things that come to mind.
The first is that they write an engaging scene with engaging characters that suck me in immediately. I usually only give a story 1-3 chapters to hook my attention, so it needs to be fairly powerful in the beginning. Even if a story is interesting, I won’t bother putting it on alert unless I’m thinking about it later that day, then I’ll go back and add it.
There is a huge difference between showing and telling. If you don’t know what the difference is then do an internet search and figure it out. There is nothing that draws me in quicker than an author that can paint a picture in my mind without telling me what I should be seeing.
An author that trusts that I am not stupid, and can remember plot points, will also earn me as a reader. In fanfic we tend to repeat ourselves a lot because we’re only posting once a week or less(I’m guilty of this as well). We want our readers to remember certain things, so we put it in every chapter, and yes, some readers have 100 stories on alert and get their fics mixed up (*hangs head* I was one of them a long time ago), however, the redundant factor gets old.
Another thing that stands out is someone who’s not afraid to take risks and step outside of the “fanfic” box. So many people get sucked into the trending topic of the time and forget originality. Or, they get wrapped up in what “loud” authors deem as appropriate for fanfic and bend to the will of the few close-minded sheep that follow them. Someone who’s not afraid to write about a controversial topic, or make a character completely different than what everyone expects, is going to influence me more to read their story than someone that follows the masses.
REALLY GOOD UST (unresolved sexual tension). It takes a great author to build the tension between two characters. I’d rather see really great UST throughout a story with an interesting plot and a non graphic lemon, than sex scattered throughout a story that is absent a plot. Nothing can replace plot and character development.
I love it when writers pull me into a story, and I can really picture what’s happening, or the dialogue flows naturally and makes me laugh. I like to read things I’ve never read before, or going deeper into some aspect of the original story that SM never fully addressed.
Eliminate clichés (or rework them in a way that makes them fresh and/or tongue-in-cheek). Write a punchy, grab-me-by-the-balls chapter 1. Don’t go overboard with internal monologue, funny though it may be. Avoid large chunks of text in italics and all-caps. End a story sooner than you originally planned.
I love good characterization and believable dialogue. I think those two things are key. i am also a sucker for pretty, poetic writing. not purple prose, per se, but just… lyrical turns of phrase.
adding depth by inserting interesting observations, but not making it too mundane. When I find exceptional dialogue writers I feel like I won the lottery. Unique, believable dialogue is not easy to write in this fandom.
Good grammar and punctuation instantly raise the caliber of a story, as well as dialogue! People seem to struggle with dialogue even more than character development. Good dialogue just pulls me in.
It’s changed quite a bit since I started reading fic. Now there are a few different types of stories that grab me.
Ones that are intricately and cleanly plotted. Meaning, a lot of stuff happens, the set-up is complicated and detailed, and the author pulls all that off well. I’m kind of bad at that kind of storytelling, so I’m always impressed by people who aren’t!
Really well-done angst. I like angst, but now, if I’m going to put myself through the heart-clench, I want the reasons for it to be real and believable, and I want the characters to act appropriately.
Detailed and nuanced character development. Meaning that the main character (generally Bella, in this context) has a long inner-journey to make and the author lets us take it with her. I like seeing them grow, change and mature, even if it takes some time to get there. I don’t just want to hear “He was so different now”, I want to watch the change take place in stages. It’s much more interesting to me.
I like people who are hearty and not heady. Endless facts are sometimes cold to read… I think Google gets the best of people sometimes–but that doesn’t discount the need for research, not doing so is just plain lazy.
Structure. Sometimes, I feel that the need for absolute perfect grammar can stifle the way a sentence flows. If Cormac McCarthy can manipulate it then why not? But it’s a niche I suppose. You have to be clever, and your beta – well they’d have to be perceptive.
Dialogue. It brings characters to life. I akin it to portraits – if the portrait is badly painted then its less believable. If the story is dreamy, make the dialogue fit. If the story is severe, make the dialogue fit. If the story is traditional, make it fit. When authors achieve this, when they make me feel like I’m watching a conversation take place, I appreciate it.
You can tell when someone has taken the time to do their research and have integrated it into the story in a why that doesn’t stick out like sore thumb. Whether that is a location or a character quirk, and they stay true to it throughout the story.
Many of the authors here on fanfiction.net leave me speechless with the way they are able to describe locations, objects, etc.
I don’t read a lot of ‘angst fics’ as I don’t enjoy the heart failure cliffhangers, so I mainly stick to comedy. If a story can make me laugh, then it will stand out.