Poll Results: What About a Story Creates a Great Read?

by | Writing

Image by Tumisu

Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days is chock-full of practical techniques. Numerous examples clarify problem areas and provide workable solutions. The action steps and blah busters McCarthy suggests will help you improve every sentence, every paragraph of your novel. If you follow her advice and implement her strategies, a publisher will be much more likely to issue you a contract.—Denise K. Loock, freelance editor, lightningeditingservices.com

Learn more at the end of the post.

I’ve studied various writing methods, such as the Hero’s Journey, a three-act structure, and seat-of-the-pants methods focusing on certain story elements. These methods were written by authors. What they think is from their experience, which is good, but I wanted to find out what readers think. So I decided to ask the readers subscribing to my newsletter—mostly women who enjoy clean stories.

Considering the methods I’ve studied, I asked them to peruse sixteen opinions readers might have about what makes a great story. All sixteen help a story, but how many are important to these readers? Then I limited the participants to choose the top three thoughts that made a story great for them.

The three-choice limit was hard for many of the women, but it forced them to think about what really mattered to them. I wasn’t shocked at the runner-up, but I was surprised by the winner that edged ahead. These women love plot twists. They want to be surprised.

Image by Tumisu

Poll Results

Rank Opinion% of Total
#1The plot Includes twists14.9%
#2I leave the story satisfied14.4%
#3A character I identify with10.8%
#4An engaging setting10.3%
#5The characters’ journeys show they’ve been challenged7.7%
#6The dialogue is real, and engaging7.7%
#7Whatever genre, story contains a romance element6.7%
#8My hope is increased or renewed5.1%
#9The dialogue includes clever banter4.6%
#10A character I feel like I’m inside4.1%
#11The characters’ journeys show they’ve changed4.1%
#12The plot is full of struggles3.6%
#13I learn something I didn’t know3.1%
#14Secondary characters add to the protagonist’s journey.2.6%
#15The setting contributes to the character’s pursuit.0.5%
#16A truth is confirmed.0.0%

More Reflections

I thought it interesting that almost twice as many women thought it was more important to them that the characters’ journeys challenged them than changed them. Many more women thought it was important that they identify with the character than feel like they were inside the character. Enjoying banter ranked better than almost half of the choices pleased me. I love to include banter in dialogue. I was surprised how low “The plot is full of struggles” ranked.

Which result(s) surprised you and why? What else about a story do you consider essential for a great read?


Zoe McCarthy’s book, Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days, is a fresh and innovative refocusing of your novel or novella. Through a few simple—and fun—steps, Zoe helps writers take their not-ready-for-publication and/or rejected manuscripts to a spit-polish finish. Writing is hard work, yes, but it doesn’t have to be difficult.

—Eva Marie Everson, best-selling and award-winning author, conference director, president of Word Weavers International, Inc.

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American Christian Fiction Writers

American Christian Fiction Writers

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