Inequity and deservingness are two of the main factors that keep readers reading. If we want to write killer stories, we need to know how they affect readers. A few years ago I wrote an essay on this and thought it probably too technical for most folks’ taste. But I passed it on to a recent attendee of the killer workshop and he found it helpful. In fact, when he watched Pride & Prejudice shortly after reading the essay, he saw how these factors dramatically affected his rooting interest. So I’m thinking others will find it useful as well.
In order to understand it you must first read George Saunders’ short story “The Bohemians.” You’ll find it here in The New Yorker, January 19, 2004. It would probably be rated PG for some profanity.
Now if the story doesn’t pull you in, stop reading. Because the essay probably won’t make any sense to you. You’ll only be able to understand it if the story works for you. But if it does, then ask yourself what the main character’s problem was and what drew your interest? Then read my essay, “How Inequity Evokes Reader Interest.”
Please note “The Bohemians” does present a character with a problem, and the story cycle applies, but not in the straight-forward manner it does with most stories. BTW, if you’ve ever read Patrick Rothfuss’s excellent Name of the Wind, you’ll see inequity is what shapes the story there as well. If you haven’t read it, I recommend you give it a go.
I’ll be interested to see your responses to Saunders’ story, my essay, and/or Rothfuss’s novel.