I've learned a lot in the 20+ sessions of Literary Criticism nights that the group has been regularly having these past few months. In addition to many terms and styles of critique, I've managed to identify aspects of the craft in storytelling that I find critical.
I know that critical to my engagement in a story is one of three things: plot, character, or idea (setting or macguffin).
I'm normally engaged in the plot if the situation or the threat is inriguing, or if the conflict is tasty. Naturally, this is often enhanced by one of the other two elements.
I'm often drawn to quintessential characters - people who stand out from the crowd due to excellence in some field despite any failings. However, characters who strike a chord in me because of the truth or versimilitude in their nature (overwhelming love for one's family, sacrifice in the name of principle, human weakness, revenge) also get high points from me.
Idea refers to a cool or interesting setting or macguffin (wondrous or incredibly important thing that enables or is one of the cornerstones of the story). Sometimes, the story is more about the exploration of the setting rather than a strong or intricate plot, or is about revealing the layers beneath the surface of the macguffin, and I find this interesting too.
These may engage my interest, but will never be the only factors in determining how satisfying the story is to me.
More on that... another time.