Kris of Kris 'n' Good Books (http://krisngoodbooks.blogspot.com) just did a post on whether readers are mean for being so demanding. I don't think of myself as mean, mostly because I generally don't post the title or author's name if I'm mocking a certain kind of book, or lack of grammatical style. Or complete lack of knowledge of how to write. I have mentioned grammatical quirks I've noticed in some books I've summarized or given my impressions on and also given the titles of, but it wasn't mean. I just have a bad grudge against sentences which start with participles. I've said that J.L. Langley uses "may" when she should use "might," since "might" is the past tense, but her editors should be catching that.
Here's what I said to Kris' post:
"I'm not mean. I just have certain strong preferences. Sometimes I just want the light and fluffy. It's ironic, because I work for an author who writes horror mixed with humor. Jordan has quite a high tolerance for gore in what she reads and watches. I like the humor and supernatural aspects in her books. My gore tolerance is pretty low. She loves to hear that something she wrote creeped me out.
I'm good with a book which touches on social issues or characters with various personal challenges, but I want a light touch concerning the issue. I don't want to feel like I'm being lectured.
I'll just do a rambling post on my LJ about this."
And here I am. I've said these things before, but I think I have a new reader or two now, so the two people who have been reading this for a while can skip over this. I like characters to keep the sexual orientation they started with. I don't like gay characters turning straight, or straight characters turning gay. Someone should at least have been out to themselves and some friends (and possibly some sex partners) for a few years before they are really ready to settle down into a relationship. Say you come out to yourself when you're fifteen, come out to a couple friends a bit later, have a few lovers, and are maybe ready to think about a serious relationship when you're in your twenties. That seems realistic enough to me. I'm quite happy with stories with a bisexual man getting into a serious same-sex relationship. I don't think it's highly likely in real life, but it could happen. That way the character never has to change orientations, though he should be aware of having same-sex attractions, and have acted on them enough times to have a clue.
If it's a historical romance, I want accurate historical details, as far as I can tell. I was a history major, so I dare say I can tell quite a bit with certain periods of history. I don't need to hear too much detail about the lice and the fleas and the stench and people's teeth rotting out, but events and attitudes of the time should be accurate enough. If certain sex acts are against the laws of God and Man at that particular time, the characters should have a good sense of self-preservation and discretion. Stupid romance heroes are unattractive. That goes for the contemporary romances, too.
Even in the light and fluffy romances, I want the guys to act like guys, not all weepy and emotional. I don't want them to be girls. I don't care if a protagonist is queeny if they're not really playing it up, but just being themselves. I don't see why there aren't more androgynous or somewhat effeminate characters in gay romances. My opinion is that there are some guys who are just naturally more effeminate. That isn't to say that they can't be tough and have lots of great qualities. It's not insulting to write a character like that if it's done well.
Too many writers seem to say, "Oh, this character is gay," or "this character is gay now," without a consideration of the social and psychological aspects of the attitudes they'd have about themselves, and the attitudes their societies would have towards them. It's great if they're well-adjusted -- it also makes me believe more in a romance actually working out -- but they'd still have the marks of the things they had to work through.
I don't want the characters to fall in love on the first page. I'm good with lust at first sight, and the characters acting on that, then getting to know each other. I realize that's not your typical romance. But guys having sex, then becoming more and more emotionally involved over time, and working through internal and external problems in a growing relationship -- that makes a good story for me. A lot of women readers wouldn't think that was a romance as they define it, but it's quite satisfactory for me on a realistic romance level.
I don't think sex is the cure-all for emotional trauma. I think that if the characters have emotional trauma or issues of that sort, they should be getting therapy and possibly medication. I don't think they'd be really great candidates for a relationship to start with. If they're trying hard to work through their thing, and they have a lot else going for them, then it's a bit more plausible. If that protagonist can function well enough on his own, but benefits from a supportive partner, with the partner also getting real benefit out of the relationship, that will likely work for me.
I'm pretty attracted to stories with characters with physical disabilities. I really don't care for it if the characters get miraculously cured at the end. If the character isn't self-pitying, and is doing well at finding ways to work around the disability, and, again, has a lot to offer, that really works for me. I want for both protagonists to be pretty independent to start with, and then staying that way, and not having it go to one of the protagonists carrying the other around. That happened in a straight romance I read with a paraplegic woman. She started out with a job she could do well, but the book became a wall-banger when he just started carrying her everywhere. So, not perfect, but independent, not self-pitying, and fairly well-adjusted.
I'll think of other things I've ranted about before...