P = Promise. Does the story live up to the promise of its tagline/blurb? If it does, great. Okay this is subjective. No two readers will ever agree on every book they've read. Personal likes and dislikes have to come into it somewhere but the general principle here is "does the writer deliver"? For me, a good story is where that promise is easily fulfilled, even if you don't like how the writer does it!
Q = Queries. A good story should wrap these up by its end. Leaving a reader wondering how the characters get on after the story ends is fine (and is a great sign) but the problems set up in the story should've been resolved. There should be no unresolved queries here.
R = Reading Flow. A good story for me is one where I'll be anxious to get to the next page for the "what happens next" moment. The flow of the story should be a good one. You want nothing to drag the story down. The story should read easily too, though don't mistake simplistic reading/writing for simple reading/writing. It is generally true if someone has made something look easy, such as making their prose look easy to reproduce, you can guarantee that same someone has worked hard for years to develop that skill. Getting the reading flow right requires precision with words and an awful lot of editing. When it is done well, no reader will ever notice!
S = Set-up. The story set-up has to be intriguing enough to entice me into reading it. Anything with a fairytale/fantasy world basis will pique my curiosity enough to have a good look at the book. It's then when the blurb and opening paragraph kick in. If they intrigue me, I'll go on to buy the book. So the set-up has got to be strong enough to intrigue me at all. That set-up must include there being something special about the characters to draw me in.
T = Tension. There has to be lots of it and it should arise naturally from the characters. If you have an awkward character, you know they're going to clash with others in the story. Fine. What I also need to know is what makes that character awkward. There is always a reason for it!
Final part next week...