If we don’t want to waste time writing a story that will never get anywhere, we have to make sure we’ll be able to complete it. And guess what? It’s not completed when we, as writers, think it is. Going from seed idea to completion happens over two stages.
So far, in Parts One and Two, we’ve focused on what it would take to get us through the first stage, finishing the writing and editing. But these same guidelines apply to the second stage, sharing the story.
Unless we’re writing only for ourselves, we want to do something with our story: make a sale, make an impression, make someone happy/sad/think, etc. So all these aspects we’ve been talking about are really intended to get us to look at our story idea from the perspective of our audience, the reader.
A story is worth writing when it’s worth reading.
Go ahead and ponder that thought for a second. Makes it seem so clear, doesn’t it? Okay, now let’s review the guidelines we talked about in Parts One and Two, but this time, I’ll talk about them from a reader’s perspective:
- Does our story have an emotional heart? Would a reader perk up or shiver when they heard the premise? Will readers connect to the characters and their plight? Will readers care enough to read the whole story?
- Is our story unique enough to hold the reader’s interest? Or is it rehashing tired tropes they’ve seen umpteen times before? Would a reader be able to predict every plot turning point? Or will it keep them guessing until the very end? Will readers feel compelled to finish the story to find out what happens?
- Does our story have a point? Would a reader feel enlightened or challenged (in even the slightest way) by it? Will they learn to see things from a different perspective? Will a reader forget about the book after closing it for bedtime? Or will it be memorable enough to make them want to finish it the next day?
Many books have high concept hooks, strong characters, tension, and page-turning stories. All those things work together to make a story good. But if we offer more to our readers, our work can be great.
Author Carrie Vaughn talked about the difference between pretty good and great yesterday on the Genreality blog:
What separates competent stories from great, sellable stories? This may be the hardest hurdle to overcome on the road to getting published and establishing a career. Because once you’ve internalized the concrete skills, what’s left is intangible. Things like voice, theme, meaning. The “so what?” factor. Why did you write this story and how do you get that across in a meaningful way?
Things like voice and theme create a unique, emotional experience for the reader. Add in a “why” to give it a point and the reader will feel like reading our story was time well spent.
We can get readers to love our stories by making them worth reading. And if it’s not a waste of their time to read it, then it’s not a waste of our time to write it.
As a reader, what makes you connect to a story? What types of voice do you like or dislike the most? Do you consciously notice themes as you read? What makes your favorite stories stick in your head?Pin It