David Farland gave a nice webinar talk for the recent IndieReCon workshop, titled "Million Dollar Ideas". He expounded on the following main points: 1) A great setting, 2) The right protagonist, 3) Emotional appeal, 4) Keeping your audience surprised and intrigued, and 5) Using the best distribution plan for the type of book. All good stuff.
A segment from the Emotional Appeal section took me in a different direction. Farland asked the question, "What does the audience love?" He explained that this is influenced by gender, and changes as we get older. Children love wonder. Girls start to like romance. Boys want adventure. Adults like mystery and or drama. Later on, we might want something more intellectual. These generalities affect how we write and how we view the work of others.
It hit me that our likes and dislikes, because of age and sex, enter into our comments to a critique group or as a beta reader. One step further would be why book reviews get varied responses. Are we being objective enough or do we let our personal emotional appeal tastes get in the way?
In my critique group we have a Middle Grade writer of horror and adventure, a Young Adult fantasy writer, a Contemporary Sweet Romance writer, and me--Historical Romance based on the Book of Mormon. All are females, but I am half a generation older than the other three. Does this mean I might enjoy submissions by the romance writer more than the other two? Most likely, but not by a large degree. Any writing done well can be enjoyable.
This means we should be just as competent critiquing any writing as with our favorites. Writing elements such as clarity, pacing, or sentence structure are similar across all genres. Whether or not you love it is personal. Of personal preferences versus objectivity, should one rule or should we strive for a balance as a critique group member, beta reader, or book reviewer?