When it comes to reading books or watching movies, I tend to be the sort of person that can enjoy just about everything to some extent.
If I’m watching a really bad movie, I can laugh at how awful it is and how little effort was put into it (excluding the Last Airbender, that was just insulting). At the same time, though, I don’t really get ecstatic over good movies and books. I basically watch everything with neutrality. I could tell you everything I didn’t like about anything I’ve read or seen, to the point where you’ll wonder if I really liked it, but that’s just who I am. The only way you could really tell if I enjoyed something is if I can just as easily talk about what I liked about it. There are also a few things that tend to pull me in easier than others.
First off, I’m not a big fan of cliches. I like more originality than familiarity in basically everything I experience. Most specifically, I hate romantic subplots. If your young male main character meets a young female main character early in the story, and the two hate each other until the very end when they fall in love, then it doesn’t even matter what the rest of the story was. I will hate it, I promise. Especially since a lot of these stories tend to take place in a week, or a few months at the longest, you don’t go from despise to enamor in that span of time, at least not when you’re concerning yourself with the fate of the world or whatever may be the case. If a romantic subplot has to happen, then it has to happen over the course of a series of books and it must be handled very carefully. I’d avoid it just to be safe.
So, on to what I like. I like creativity. I enjoy reading about something that with out a doubt could not have been written by any other author. I like complex plot twists and detailed and well-mapped worlds, put together in a very natural way. I’ll use the Codex Alera series, by Jim Butcher for example. The main character is basically the only one without super powers, so he has to use his brain and wits to keep up with everyone else in life. But the fate of the world also turns to him numerous times, while political cloak and dagger is afoot in the capital. He moves up the social ladder as the series progresses, but it only increases the stakes as larger and more sinister foes infiltrate the lands. I won’t go into too much detail because spoilers. This series progresses and escalates very naturally, and the main character is pretty awesome the entire time, even when he’s put at a disadvantage. I’d recommend it for anyone that likes fantasy stories. It isn’t overrun by elves and dwarves and dragons, but it is a very well put together sword and sorcery series.
I also like when the main characters’ plans get thrown out the window. Let’s say the protagonist is plotting to overthrow a corrupt kingdom, but in order to do so they have to stage a rebellion and gain the trust of the people. Seventy percent of the way into the book, the evil overlord catches wind of this plan and poisons the water supply, killing off the vast majority of their army and thus, thwarting the plan. Now, suddenly, the characters have to think of some completely different, outlandish way to beat him, because the book is going to end soon and they don’t have many pages left! (This is usually depicted by some sort of event the evil overlord is plotting that is swiftly approaching.) Cliche, maybe, but I enjoy seeing a “likely victory” get squashed and replaced by a “slim/no chance victory” and the heroes winning anyway. I doubt I’m alone in that sentiment.