Write What You Care About


Write What You Care About

Today's post is a fairly simple reminder of one crucial ingredient for a winning story. While it's possible to write a technically proficient story that you have little feeling for, the really successful ones are those in which you invest yourself. The stories that readers remember are the ones that you have shown passion and attention to detail. Laziness won't creep in as easily to a story that is about what you care about.

It can be a very tricky road to traverse when you are choosing topics for your new story. Maybe you have a good sense of what your character is, but not what she will be doing or what sort of world she will inhabit. If you give her a job in a law firm, for example, and have her at the firm a lot but don't care anything about being a lawyer, this lack of interest will show up in your writing. You may say to yourself, "Oh, I can just plant a few details I got from the internet‚" but readers are more discerning than you think. They'll be able to tell if you are invested in the details you are sowing your story with.

That is one way to think about good, invested details versus neutral, thoughtless ones. Neutral details are like burying stones in a field: they don't do anything. They don't connect to the surrounding landscape or take or give. They don't change the surroundings or enrich them in any way. Planting a detail that you care about and that comes from this feeling, by contrast, is like planting a seed. It will continue to grow and inform the written world around it, enriching every aspect of the universe you've created. It will engage in a dialogue with other details of the story.

I want to make very clear that I am not saying, "Write what you know." That is sometimes true, but is more limiting than is necessary. If you really care about something, a combination of research and imagination is enough to make it come to life. But you have to care about it in a personal way. The personal in a story is what, oddly enough, makes it universal.