Stories that change my mind about something I thought I knew. The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey changed my opinion about Richard III.
Stories that take me completely into their world so when I finish reading I feel almost bereft, sorry to go.
Stories that show me a whole new world. Sci-fi and fantasy are the best for this. Yes I know I can be shown a whole new world on earth but I prefer what other worlds in some universe could be like.
Decent one-liners that make me laugh.
A story that shows me motivations or stresses characters are under that I might not have considered before. For example murders are committed for serious reasons and to what appears to others to be trivial ones. Yet a good story will take you into the mind of that murderer and show why the trivial reason isn’t trivial to them.
Good, sharp pace with quiet bits in between giving me good background on the setting and characters, knowing said quiet bits are gearing the reader up for the next big scene.
A satisfactory ending, which is not the same as a happy one necessarily. The ending has to be right for the story and the main character. It won’t feel right if the match isn’t there.
Characters I can rally behind (or metaphorically boo for) but either reaction has to be genuine. I don’t want to see the author’s hand making their characters act in a certain way. The characters’ acting has to be realistic for those characters.
I love getting to the end of a story or novel and in a sense wishing neither had ended. Always a sign of a well told tale! Going back over a story/novel and picking up the bits I missed first go around. This is particularly true for a detective novel. I always miss some of the clues on the first read!
I like a happy ending where the hero/heroine has “earned” it. I also like to see villains get their comeuppance but again in a realistic manner. Villains generally are not going to fall apart. They can be caught out.