An important question. But a more important one is “why read”. (Note: this is going to be brief and I don’t know how much posting I’m going to be able to do over the next several days–business trip for my “day job” coming up.)
People have told me to think about what my goal is as a writer and to be driven by that. There’s some good value in that advice, but the flip side is that whatever my goal might be as a writer, if it’s anything other than intellectual masturbation, then it must also consider what the reader’s goal is as a reader.
If a work doesn’t meet the reader’s goal in reading, then it doesn’t matter what goal mine might be (saving only that intellectual masturbation thing) because it won’t be accomplished.
In general, when it comes to fiction, the reader wants to be entertained. They want to be excited, amazed, thrilled. They want to feel worry, romance, wonder. They want to be diverted from their humdrum existence into something different. They want to have characters they can care about in situations that cause them to worry and then have that worry resolved in a satisfying way.
In short, they want _stories_. Create stories. Get them to read. And then any other goals you might have can be slipped in.