Setting, character and story
1. Setting: I'll read nearly anything is the setting is intriguing. Right now I'm reading a non-fiction memoir/journalistic report Lost and Found in Russia, by Susan Richards.
"Returning again and again to the provincial hinterlands of this rapidly evolving country from 1992 to 2008, Susan Richards struck up some extraordinary friendships with people in the middle of this historical drama. Anna, a questing journalist, struggles to express her passionate spirituality within the rules of the new society. Natasha, a restless spirit, has relocated from Siberia in a bid to escape the demands of her upper-class family and her own mysterious demons. Tatiana and Misha, whose business empire has blossomed from the ashes of the Soviet Union, seem, despite their luxury, uneasy in this new world. Richards watches them grow and change, their fortunes rise and fall, their hopes soar and crash." from amazon.com
|Siberia. Minusinsk.Gold rush. 1911|
2. Characters: without characters, the setting can't be fully revealed. I enjoy almost any character who comes alive on the page. If the best writing is a conversation with the author, the best characters likewise speak to the reader. I don't mind if the character is profoundly unsympathetic, as long as he or she is three-dimensional, genuine and honest. It is not the the author that creates such a character; when I write, my best characters reveal themselves to me, not vice-versa. These are the characters I look for when I read. Jen, the quiet young woman who holds her farm family together in rural Maine in the 1920's, still lives in my mind, though I first read this book in 1974.
Porter-Parsonsfield Bridge, Maine by Hugh Manatee
|Ingmar Bergman (1918-2007), Swedish stage and film director. Photo: Taken during the production of Wild Strawberries (Smultronstället) (1957).|
There are plenty of other literary elements to discuss. For example, I almost dislike symbolism, finding it too often obvious and intrusive, whereas diction (word choice) is lots of fun and makes me feel I'm playing with the author. Even so, I always come back to the setting and the characters as what I like best, with story leading the rear guard.