Let’s not waste time. I think the most important question to ask yourself as a writer is this:
“Why would I care?”
“Why would I care about this story?” “Why would I care about this characters?” “Why would I care bout the topic(s)?” “Why would I care about what happens to the characters and the story?”
This question has two sides:
- You: the writer — Why would you care? Why? Why write? Why write this?
- You: as the reader — Why care reading it? Why care reading any story at all?
Intellect does not do it
Talk to me and try to explain. I will probably not care about anything you say until that moment you start hitting your emotions. Why care? Why care about you when you do not really seem to care about your work?
“I love you”
Imaging saying “I love you.”
Easy. Three words. “I love you.”
Just move your mouth. Say it.
But what do you feel? Do you feel anything? Do you feel anything towards and for the person you address it to? Do you care? Do you care about him? Her?
Where is your heart? Where are your emotions? What is happening to you? What happens to your eyes, to your facial expression? Do they remain blank? Do you get mushy? Does anything happen at all?
What if you try with someone else? What happens there? Then? What if you despise that person? Or secretly yearn for? Are you able to say it at all?
What do you love in your work? What would you like to read yourself? What is amiss in all the books you have read until now? What hunger has remained unsatisfied? Which stories and type of stories can you not get enough of?
Who are you? Where do I see you in your work? What do you have to bring me? What can I give to you? Do you reach out to me from in-between your words? Do we make contact?
Can you make me fall in love with your work? With your mind? With you?
Why I think people care about your story
- It touches emotion — Your story touches an emotion. Maybe two. Maybe even more. They make some readers laugh, other cry, others scared.
- It shows something of you — Whoever you are and whatever you do and believe. In an honest way. Or a glorified way. A funny way. A sad way. Or whatever. But you are there. In your work. In the events that happen in those stories.
- It is about emotions — Apart from touching emotions, the story is about emotions. Your character (instead of being a dead puppet being tossed around) moves through them. From angst to anger to sadness to happiness to fear to determination to whatever.
- They can identify — With whatever is happening in your story. There is something in your work that speaks to them. That they like. That fills a need. That resonates. Excitement, love, power, strength, wealth. It can be your characters. The things they meet. The adventures they have.
Why people don’t care
- The topics do not speak to them — The reader is simply not your type of audience. The story is like offering only fish to someone who strongly prefers meat. (First step: find someone who does like ‘fish’.)
- The writing and the voice are still raw — While a lot of things might already be good, the written words simply do not communicate to your reader. Your story-development might still be dull. The way you “speak” to your reader(s) and the way you expose elements might still be raw and lacking that edge to really hit your reader. (Solutions: find what excites you in your story. Look closely at your writing. Have others read your work. Edit, edit, edit.)
- Your work might come over as boring — Or flat. The words lacks life, excitement, fire. It might be droning where it could be singing. Your characters might lack life themselves. It ends with disappointment.
- Your words do not convince — Any story works with suspension of disbelief. All stories describe events that only happen to a very few people and usually not in the way you describe it. (Solutions: work on the internal logic of the events in your story. Make it all fit and snap together.)
- You lost control — Somehow your story might have taken control over you, dragging you in directions showing more experienced readers that you simply lost it. (Solution: go back to your original idea. Spend more time thinking about what you really want to talk about.)
- Your research was insufficient — Especially when writing about things that you do not know about (but your reader does) you can mess things up by creating ridiculous situations that might even be insulting to the readers who know where you don’t. (Solution: do better research)
Why would you care?
And so we come back to the original question: “why would you care?”
Why care about telling stories?
Why would people care reading them?
Why do you care reading stories of others? What do you find in them? What is missing for you? Where is the gap?
“To care” and: “to love” are two things that simply happen to you from a part of your brain you hardly have any control over.
I fell in love with Science Fiction and care in my writing about everything related to self-realization (and anything that stands in the way of that goal).
For someone I know this is “the truth” and anything related to being true and being real. For you it might be something completely different.
Regardless of what other people will try to tell you or will try to push you to (“you should really do this or that instead of what you are doing now”), follow your own heart.
In most cases “I think you should…” is actually: “I would love to do or write X, but find it more convenient if I can manipulate you in such a way that you’l do it for me.”
If and when you find the things you really care about, the reader will usually feel the change in your writing. Usually it becomes more powerful while taking less and less effort (relatively speaking) to really nail it down.