What has made story-tellers believe that it’s a person’s situation that is what makes them interesting? Hospital stories. Cop stories. Time travel stories. Reality shows. Tabloid magazines. It’s (almost) all garbage. An interesting story-teller will never capture an audience if they cannot bring anything more to the table than the circumstances. Writers, bring the reader into the mind of your characters~!
So many writers draw on what they know and then are trapped by it, failing to use it as inspiration to get on with it–to get to the good part. Successful fiction has thought of any reader questions and already answers the ones that are worth answering.
Let’s say two editors read the new Ken Liu piece from the slush pile and are amazed. They both approve the award-winning author’s latest and, still on a high, move to the next piece. This one is by another of their favorite authors, who (for the purpose of this fictitious exercise) is fictitious. Unlike Ken Liu. Soon the editors are perplexed over this new piece about “Tim, the Boy Who Thought About the Circus.”
The first editor has questions by the end of the piece, about the character. The facts are all here. But when does this take place? Had the circus ever been around before? Was the strong man really gay? Why were there hyenas but not tigers? What did it all smell like? Didn’t Tim get dust in his eye? Did he want to join? Did he have any empathy for the poor animals or maybe the carnies? Did they really have small hands (the carnies)? Would it be better if one escapes (the animals)? Maybe leaves a scar? Maybe a carny leaves a scar? Is it ‘carny’ or ‘carney’…?
So much for the first addled editor.
The second editor reads all about Tim, but instead thinks, “Boy, that Ken guy is an awesome writer… I bet he gets all the girls.” And then he votes Tim off the table completely.
As an author, you got one shot with a reader. Don’t waste it. If you haven’t worked out the reader experience–anticipated reader questions and answer the ones that are worth answering–by the time you submit it, your story is probably a miss.