Writers have a tall order to fill when delivering a story.
A writer makes a promise, right from the earliest stages of the story, and if they don’t fulfill the reader’s expectation by way of that promise, the story falls flat. If there’s no promise, and no hint at fulfillment, readers walk away and who can blame them? As readers, we demand a payoff.
What a reader brings to the table is curiosity and a desire to be satisfied.
As readers, we come hungry for an experience and if the opening of a story doesn’t whet our appetite like a well-portioned appetizer, raising questions in our minds, teasing our curiosity, we quickly lose interest. We’re busy people. We want a story that will give us something to care about.
And what we care about most is character.
We read to discover something about someone, to experience an arc of change through a character’s story. A well-written story engages our emotions, ruffles our opinions, gets us thinking and rooting for the story’s protagonist. A finely-crafted story will appeal to our senses, our passions, our sentiments and provide a stimulating outing for our imagination.
A story allows a vicarious experience, an opportunity to live in someone else’s shoes for a day. Have you ever felt tense and anxious, cheering for a character to pull off a feat, even though it’s something you would never dream of doing and consider morally wrong? Take Ocean’s Eleven, for instance. I would never attempt to burgle a casino, but watching the movie, I was squarely behind the heist team.
Story allows us to sample perspectives different from our own.
This experience can either tweak our own opinions in a slightly different direction, or further solidify them, by giving us a springboard for our thoughts and ideas. They help us more fully form our own characters, and better understand ourselves and this circumstance we call life on earth.
So come to the table, and bring your best curiosity. It’s the guest of honor.