Answer: flat abs.
But since this is a site about writing, I’m going to have to rephrase the question to ask about readers. So, what is it that people want from a novel?
Maybe it’s a great premise: You’re waiting in line on Judgement Day and swap stories with those around you to see who is headed where. Or there’s an outbreak of a new disease like no one’s ever seen before. The one who holds the antidote won’t share it. My heart is already pumping as I wonder where these are going.
Along the same vein, some people have to have their roller coaster ride. “Give me cliffhangers or give me death!” In a book, you are often lucky enough to get both. Michael Crichton was a master of these. Miss you, Mike.
Or you could want the exact opposite. A little escapism is the perfect antidote to being stuck in a cluttered house with a pack of screaming toddlers. You can take a trip to a tropical island, all without leaving your sticky couch.
Maybe you need confirmation that you are not alone, or a reminder of how lucky you are. Fault in Our Stars anyone?
Or you might be in desperate need of a good laugh. Nothing like humor to save us from taking life too seriously. Bridget Jones’s Diary never lets me down.
Speaking of Bridget, who doesn’t love the feeling of falling in love? I have been known to use chocolate for this purpose, but a Romance novel is better for my waistline.
Perhaps you prefer stories that make you think, even if they bring up more questions than they answer.
What these all have in common is they elicit emotions in the reader. A good book will strike an emotional chord make it hum, all from the safety of your (possibly sticky) couch. It might even let you forget about the state of your abs for a while.
If you want an excuse to put off a round of sit-ups, enter your must-have for a good book in the comment section below.