1. Story telling
2. Consistency and logical progression with the writing
4. Character building and Character arcs
5. Writing/Grammar/Vocabulary/Ornate language
I always put technical part of writing at the very end for one specific reason. That can be fixed in a chapter once I'm done writing the other parts. Characters are low on my list but often paradoxically take up like 25% of my editing. Point 2 is one i added to this because it's absolutely important to me that there should be a point were anyone goes "Wait, but" moments. Made up Example: "He has a key that unlocks any door! Why won't he use it to escape the room he's locked in!"
Character first. Characters make or break stories. If I don't care about someone succeeding, then it's lower than celebrity gossip rags. At least the celebrity might be someone I recognize.
Plot second. Things need to happen. If your first few pages are nothing but exposition, then your characters can't do anything in the first place.
Worldbuilding third. I want good worldbuilding, but not at the expense of the above.
Skill at prose last. Again, I treat these as manuscripts. Can't help it. In a manuscript, prose can always be improved, and far easier than any of the above. It just takes time and effort, which is why the cost of a really good line-edit can go up. Also, in web fiction, changing the plot after the fact is the hardest thing due to your (hopefully) large fan base, so I would prefer you focus on making certain your story makes sense before you focus on making it sound good. I've also seen that plenty of Royal Road readers will be all too happy to help out with your prose, so there are certain advantages to a slight unpolished feel as long as it isn't completely unreadable.
These will all feed into each other, of course. If nothing's happening, then even an interesting character gets boring. Lackluster worldbuilding will cramp what you can do in the first place. Truly horrible prose will mean I can't get to know your character in the first place. But in general, this is my priority list and it's served me pretty well for a decade.
1. character building/ arcs
2. worldbuilding/ lore
5. story flow and feel.
This way I know what characters I have to write with, and how I want them to end up. I have a clear idea of who will die, who will marry who, and who will switch sides.
Then i know the world I have to play around with. Geography and lore is important to a story. It dictates cultures, languages, alliances/ enemies, weather, magic/ technology, and philosophy.
Next is plot. Now that I know who my players are, and where they have to explore, I can sit down and wrote out what conflicts they will be a part of, and who will mesh with who.
Grammar after that. I would put it last but almost everyone who has read my story has commented on bad grammar so I'm trying to put more focus on it. It's one of those things that you can care less about the better you are at it.
Lastly, flow and feel. The delivery of your story is less important than the characters and story to me. Romeo and Juliet is just as interested in modern English as it is In old English, and the tone is not affected much. Pacing also goes into this category, which is important but is definitely not the main focus of a first draft.
3. Character arcs
Not necessarily in that order but this is what I work with. It goes like a dance; one two three four, one two three four... and on and on. It's not like any of these are more 'important', it's just that I need a bit of each to figure out the next step. If any of these are missing, I'm missing something that should melt into the same seamless story.
1 - writing quality (grammar, word choice, punctuation)
2 - story
3 - worldbuilding
4 - character
Story is next because I like a good plot. I read a lot of sf where worldbuilding is the key and characters a bit flat.
When it comes to the writing skill, I don't necessarily require perfect grammar and eloquent writing all of the time, I mostly just need to be able to understand the story decently well so that I'm not taken out of it by struggling to understand what the author meant or getting distracted by constant wrong usage or words or tenses. The occasional mistake here and there is fine, but if I can't understand what a story is saying - especially in the first one or two chapters when I'm still deciding if I like what I'm reading - then that's more problematic. I don't know if I have as much to say on it on the writing front, I just try to write things as clearly as I can and iron out any mistakes in editing. I think I mostly just consider writing quality to be the barrier for entry in the first place which would be why I place it so high.
As far as characters go, I've always been a character-oriented person. I like characters that are likable in some way or another and give me a reason to be attached to them or to be excited when I realize we're about to learn more about them. I'm a firm believer that you can have a simple or straightforward plot still be enjoyable if you just make me want to see how it unfolds with these characters in particular. I utilize a character-focused mindset a lot in my own writing as well, most of how I plan things is based on how the characters would react to various events. Rather than "X is going to happen so that Y can come about as a result" I tend to end up going for something more along the lines of "X is going to happen and this character would feel a certain way about it which means they would probably do Y."
After that I do have some difficulty choosing between story-telling or world-building. If characters are lacking in a story I'm reading, world-building tends to be an alternative thing that can keep me invested if we're getting to see really cool things about the setting and the lore. On the other hand I feel like there's a lot of media I've come across where I like the setting but just can't stick with it if the story isn't giving me anything to be invested in. As far as for my writing, it really depends on what it is I'm writing in the first place, I think. Some stories feel like they have more of a need for one than the other, though I guess the best answer I can give in general is that I try to strike a good balance on these two.
FantasyBliss30 Wrote: I am curious to know what you prioritize when you are reading and/or writing a story?
1. Writing/Grammar/Vocabulary/Ornate language
3. Story telling
4. Character building and Character arcs
For me, both for reading and writing, 1. Character building and arcs 2. Writing prowess 3. Story 4. World-building
Also, please add any extra criteria that you keep in mind when you read or write a story.
As a writer
1 = 3 > getting illustrations for chapters = 4 >>> 2
As a writer, 4=3=1>2
With the caveat of ornate language not being my forte. My worldbuilding just sorta happens as I need it to, I care more about my characters and the story I'm telling.
As a reader, I again care more about the stories and characters. As I need to find those interesting before I'm willing to read. If it's clear to me that I'm not gonna like the characters, I ain't finishing the story.