The first rule of writing is easy. Don’t bore your readers. If a writer is tortured trying to think of the proper words when writing, the reader probably is, too. Most writers learn that immediately upon entering into serious authorship.
But there are other things, maybe tiny, maybe invisible to the author, but huge and vital to the reader. Are you writing to a Christian market? Swear words will turn much of the readership away. Are you too far outside the market? Again, you may end up losing readers. For example, today I read a review of one of my own stories that said I went too much into the psyche of a story that was supposed to be a fun adventure. And I have to agree that the story took a strange philosophical turn, even though at the time, it was completely invisible to me. (I am grateful for that review. The reviewer also had some nice things to say and I received another piece of valuable information to help me be a better writer. You can find it here..). http://mjjoachim.blogspot.com/2014/10/book-review-zombie-cowboy-two-step-by.html
There is also the dreaded political and/or moral issues.
Today I was in the middleof a series I was AVIDLY interested in. I started reading the series on Sunday and planned to go all the way to the end. The story had a great plot, interesting characters, but around page 200 in BOOK 4 I stopped reading with the decision that it wasn’t worth seeing where the story went to continue. Furthermore, I have determined never to read the author again.
I have a rule. Heroes don’t torture other beings. It’s simple and succinct. I can handle lots of gray areas and foibles, but I am so disgusted by what I see as ‘softening’ the public with ‘torture is justified’ messages that I will turn off the television or close a book indefinitely if the issue rears its ugly head.
Maybe the author won’t lose many readers. Maybe she will. Sometimes its an invisible thing that sets the reader off. In this case, I would have been okay if one of the ‘questionably evil’ sidekicks had done the torture, because I as a reader have not established whether those sidekicks are ‘good’ or ‘evil’. But not the established ‘good guy’.
So I guess my second point is Don’t make your good character do something so evil that they suddenly end up in the ‘evil’ category, especially if you’re still treating them as the hero and the good guy.
It seems like it should be easy to keep an audience. I mean, if they picked up books 1 through 3, they’ll probably go right to the end, right? But that’s not always the case. And sometimes, it’s the little things (or the things you think that are little) that will get you.