David wrote about what we’re looking for, and as an editor, I agree with everything he’s said. However, as people, we all have our different slants on what moves us. I love it when an author takes a familiar theme and twists it, like a pizza delivery sign on top of an $80,000 car. I love that feeling of “why didn’t I think of that?” I like when connections are obvious but concealed by my own bias. I love when an author ruthlessly exposes my biases and puts them in a salad spinner with something of his own device.
All stories have to do primarily with protagonists. I’m seeing their world through their filter, so they have to make sense in and of that crazy world. I have a predilection for dark stories and especially for dark characters, which are difficult to make likeable. I’m particularly fond of the anti-hero, who does things in his own, selfish way and saves the world anyway. Think John Constantine. I think the defining factor for a successful anti-hero is cool. I have to admire him even while disagreeing with him.
However, if the protagonist isn’t an anti-hero, then I want him to be strong in his own right. Give me a protag who will fight, who knows his path through the rubble of a broken life, who has his own firm morality. Bottom line: I don’t have to like your protagonist, but I'd better respect him, and I’d better understand why he’s doing what he’s doing up until the last word.