What grabs our attention in stories?
There are thousands of books which give writing advice. They tell writers how to craft the right plot, to develop in-depth characters, to explore the themes that emerge in writing.
Stories need action and reaction, heroes and villains, a message to explore—but that is not tall.
I’m convinced after over three decades of devouring stories of all kinds that what truly captures the reader is the divine madness of the writer. Plato, in coining the phrase, said that a story truly moves people when the writer is possessed by a “force” outside of themselves, higher than themselves. This force pushes him or her—and the story—into places no one expected.
I think he’s right.
As a reader, I want to see the writer willingly let go of control of the story, to give the characters and action room to develop on their own.
We all want stories where the characters test the limits of goodness and confront evil in all its forms.
We want the madness it takes to be immersed in worlds that have never existed—whether its Middle Earth or Hoth or Caparica.
We want to join hands with the writer who was mad enough to take a blank screen or page and dare to fill it with words. Who was driven to invite us into a dream or nightmare, who thrills and entertains us late into the night.