I set up a little exercise for myself yesterday--trying to figure out common themes/techniques/whatever-you-want-to-c
Everybody has their own quirks of preference, right? I mean, we would probably all put on our lists "Characters who are engaging" and "A plot that makes at least a little sense". But beyond that, our interests would diverge pretty widely. For example, as hinted at in my descriptions of my childhood play yesterday, I have a thing for characters who "switch sides". Changing loyalties, betrayals, unsuspected allies. Why? That's harder to say. I like characters who are unpredictable and capable of change. I like to be surprised. And I love the tension that comes from characters who were once enemies but now work together, or vice versa.
I also like endings that are "realistic", which for me means, a few loose ends, some unhappy along with the happy (I do like at least a little happy, a little hope).
How about you? What elements strike that chord in you, that pretty much guarantee you'll like a story (providing everything else is handled capably)?