Your writing’s fantastic, so exquisite, you think, there’s no question it will elevate the reader to love and hope or reduce him to tears. Maybe because you’re so moved by your characters your head’s on the table in a flood of your own tears and the café manager’s glaring at you because you haven’t consumed anything for two hours except his space and electricity. The East Village Coffee Lounge in Monterey, California, by the way, is a great place to write. The room in back is dark, it’s gloomy, you can’t see anything but a computer screen, and the little cave is occupied by an assortment of eccentrics from all over the world. Back to the problem. Problem number one is you are soon to be evicted from the seat of the chair you diligently took (see Rule No. 1). Problem two is the only one who cares about your characters is you.
If you really want the reader to care about your story don’t tell us yours. Here’s what we know. We’re alike. We’re unalike. Some of us introverts (most writers), some extroverts, some content, some not, ill or well-fed, loving and murderous or both. But we read for different reasons, depending upon our state of heart and mind at the time. At times we need charming and light, say, Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand (Helen Simonson), at other times elegiac, such as The Sea (John Banville). And at times, well, really, a lot of the time, we want someone to entertain us and read thrillers, mystery, romance. Which is why we have so many books. Books, ebooks, video, spoken word ─ that’s just the medium, the messenger, the method of delivery ─ don’t get distracted. Focus on story. Stories that last express a shared humanity.
Rule No. 2
Tell the reader his story