First, of all, I'd like to thank my New York Jets for giving us a nice ride this season. The year lasted longer than we in the land of Gang Green thought it would, and it was fun while it lasted. But (and here's where I make like Justin McCareins and stretch)...
The Jets demonstrated in their last game this year that they're not (yet) a great football team. In 5 quarters of playoff football, they scored 3 points on offense. For those of you on whom this reference is lost, let me clarify: That's not very good. But the game was exciting. Sometimes badly executed, showcasing some obvious mistakes, highlighted characters doing dumb deeds; you see where I'm going yet?
I think there are some parallels to writing here. Writing can be exciting without being great. There are poems and stories and books that catch your interest without being top-shelf writing. I've often heard Stephen King placed in this category. I happen to be very fond of Mr. King's short stories, but I've only walked away from one novel thinking "Wow" (Thinner). Finished all the ones I started, though. I don't think his books are bad, but in my narrow view, they're not great.
It's easier for me to define what appeals to me in prose, because it's narrower than what appeals to me in poetry. I suppose it's all the things they teach in ficton classes; I look for well-drawn characters with motivations that lead them to decisions that will change them forever. I prefer not to hear the character's thought in my omnisicient earpiece ("Show, don't tell"), I'm partial to the speculative (my favorite prose producers tend to be from SF, and just to bring this back to football, I don't mean the 49ers).
Ah, the things that go through your head when you have a long ride home after watching a tough loss.