What keeps you reading:
This is an interesting question to think about before and during the writing process: What do all of your favorite stories have in common? (this can include all media, not just books)
Why find out? Because answering this question for yourself may give you an idea of what it is you want to do with your own story, how the plot can be woven, what your goal is, and how your story will engage with readers.
Take a moment and think through which stories are your favorite—make a list if you like.
Now that you’ve decided what books/movies/shows you enjoy most, it’s time to analyze this list. The goal is to figure out what in a story attracts you, draws you in, and what keeps you reading until the end. What do your listed favorites have in common with each other? On your list think about and write down answers for each favorite story:
- What in this story attracts or appeals to you?
- Which characters draw you in and why?
- What about the characters and scenario keeps you engaged?
- What keeps you interested and reading/viewing this story until its end?
These are just a few questions you can ask yourself, and once you’ve answered them for each listed story you may begin to see a pattern. A pattern in what type of character attracts you, and what type of story plot and scenario you find most engaging and appealing—all that your favorites have in common with each other (even if they are completely different genres). You can now use this newfound knowledge to either build or add to the story you’re creating.
Example. My results, what my favorite stories have in common:
- Friendship conflicts.
The best friend falls away and needs to be rescued by the protagonist somehow. I anxiously hope everything will turn out okay in the end, but as a reader/viewer I’m not sure that will happen. The ending might be tragic. I want to know, so I keep reading/watching.
- Sweet tragedy.
Where the loss of a loved one sparks the protagonist’s story and journey. Or maybe it’s the betrayal of a loved one or dear friend that begins the tale? There are so many different scenarios to play with and imagine.
- The ancient, the unknown, the myths and legends.
Yes, Lord of the Rings is one of these. All the myths and legends keep me thinking, and uncertainties keep me guessing. Will the characters succeed in their goal? At times the story makes you wonder, and even feel that their task is impossible and cannot be accomplished. I have to keep reading/watching to find out! The legends surrounding different races, the old histories of every city, and myths of strange creatures and ancient heroes–all of it draws me in and holds me like a magnet.
- A world containing different species and human-like people.
Elves, fairies, superheroes, etc. I can still like a story with only ordinary humans in it, but I find the ones I enjoy most have some element of fantasy or other-world peoples added in.
- Battle scenes with ancient weapons or magic spells keep me guessing.
All the weapons used in Lord of the Rings fascinate me, and many are an unexpected surprise. Like those giant oliphants. The huge battering ram brought in to bring down the gates of Minas Tirith. I could go on and on… 🙂 Wizard and magic battles, like those found in the Merlin series of today, both books and TV series, for me are equally engaging.
- Character development.
I find I prefer stories where the main character grows and changes as a person. They learn. They become a better person than they were at the story’s beginning. They come to master whatever their power or skill may be. They mature.
- A touch of fun humor.
For me, a story isn’t complete without a little humor here and there; especially if the story is overall tragic. It can be a nice twist and unexpected surprise when something somber and serious suddenly throws a laugh at you, and offsets its own serious mood. Where appropriate, of course 🙂
As I said, these questions are to help design your book in a way that it becomes one of your own favorite stories. It will attract you, draw you in, and keep you wanting more.
What are your results? What do your favorite stories have in common?
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