The push to succeed is very evident in the publishing industry these days. I can safely assume it's always been that way. Writers want their work to be noticed and appreciated. I know I do, and if you're a writer you probably do as well. Mostly we want happy readers!
So, we try to write to the reader. Not what's popular or newly on the publishing scene. We strive to learn what readers want in a book and then we struggle to achieve that invisible task.
Oh, we writers know what all the successful authors say, write about sexy men, strong women, and put lots of love and emotional substance in your story. That's how you write a compelling story.
I hear that all the time. Write a compelling story and readers will love you and you'll become a New York Times Best Selling Author. That's the claim, but where is the actual description for a compelling story.
We've all read one or a dozen books we would describe as compelling. Those are the books we still remember the names of the characters years later. We keep that story locked in our hearts forever. That's the kind of book a reader wants when they turn to page one, or switch on their kindle. A story that stays with them a lifetime.
So, let's see what compelling really means. The dictionary says, 'to force, drive, or constrain.' That doesn't sound right. How about, 'to bring about by force, to exact, or to force to yield'. The Thesaurus says, 'drive, force, require, necessitate, oblige, make give, no choice but'.
I don't think any of those words describe how to write a compelling book, so I'll take a shot at it and see if I have the jest of it.
First, and possibility the most important, is to give the reader two characters they care deeply about and can relate to. That means a fully developed character so vivid that the reader could pick them out in a crowd simply by watching for a few minutes and listening to them speak. They know this character intimately. The reader has a personable relationship with your story characters. So as a writer we have to continue revealing and showing the essences of the characters we put on a page.
In a good story there must be something at stake. Regardless of the size of the tangible or intangible object of desire, it must be important to the characters and the readers. It can simple be one's reputation or as big as the world, but something must be at risk. Very often the character doesn't achieve their goal, but readers enjoy the struggle and determination that character when through trying to accomplish the impossible.
Then we need the prefect backdrop. We need a place where only these two people can contact and be directly involved in each others destiny. Be it the desert, a sandy beach in Florida, or the torrid rains in Seattle. Often the weather itself may be the constant conflict in a story. That's the reason writers carefully decide exactly where their story takes place.
In my upcoming release, OUT OF THE NIGHT, much of my story takes place in Russia. That location plays a very big part in the intrigue. Then I send Tony and Abby off to Cairo, only to end in Damascus. Those locations alone are dangerous for an American, and that's exactly why I chose them. The mere locations of the story ups the ante.
I think those three things are the foundation to a great story, and I know there are many, many more. As I make this journey, we'll continue to discuss other writing issues in the future.
What do you consider a compelling story?
BTW OUT OF THE NIGHT will be released soon.
Write on my friends, for we are the fearless and the strong!