Whenever I hear a writer complain that editors just aren’t “getting” her latest story, I suspect what they’re actually not getting out of it is emotion. As human beings, we like to sit around the campfire, literally or metaphorically, and tell each other stories. Stories enlighten us, inspire us, gift us with a new perspective. And at the heart of all of these things is the experience of a change in our emotions.
In every great comedy, there’s a hint of tragedy. In a good ghost story, there’s a hint of love. The change from one emotion to another is what makes the story experience feel real. Like contrasting colors, playing different emotions off of each other makes all of them more intense.
But evoking emotion is tricky. What moves me might not move you, because we have different values. If you’re a diehard Red Sox fan, and I couldn’t care less about baseball, then a story about a poor Boston kid’s struggles in Little League isn’t going to affect me the same way it affects you.
So don’t write a story that’s just about baseball and expect me to “get” it.
But there are certain universal, primal themes that a story like that could tap into, like family, friendship, dreams, growing up — if you hit those notes, and hit them hard, then even the toughest critic will find something to like in your story. Why?
Because then it’s not about baseball anymore. It’s about life. We’ve all experienced those things. They’ve affected us. And suddenly, maybe without really knowing why, your readers will “get” your story. And that’s what really counts!
Exactly! A good author's book will appeal to fans of the particular genre. A great author's book will transcend its genre and connect with its readers on a “universal” level of understanding.