One of the things I always worry about my return to writing is “will people want to read my work?” My friend Serdar has analyzed this in one of his blog posts (with the winning title “If I Had More Time, I Would Have Written a Shorter Novel“). He focused on novel length in many cases, and asked himself why some large works are worth the time and others are not.
What’s interesting is his next book is 230k words. “A Bridge To The Quiet Planet” is probably clocking in around 110K. But we both ask ourselves “Why do people care.”
We have to make it worth their time (and money), it must engage them. I can think of two ways we may do this off the top of my head:
Something To Care About
Serdar hits on one by noting:
. . . the trick, I guess, is to package them up and offer them in a way that other people can pick up on, in their own way, what the interesting things are. Anime and manga have whole subgenres that revolve around the mastery of a skill (a sport, a game) or the deep investigation of a mundane everyday occupation. They take something that to an outsider would be meaningless and they invest it with the urgency of The Great Work Of Life And Death. It makes a striking contrast to stories that involve casts of thousands and the fate of nations but evoke little more than a gurgling snore.
You have to write about stuff people care about or make them care by getting them invested in the characters, the setting, etc. If you can connect people to the work (often through characters) then they will buy into it. They will give a damn.
For my own example, let’s take Yuri On Ice, the gay romance men’s figure skating drama you didn’t know you wanted, and that is a runaway hit. I have watched it twice because I like the characters, I like humor, and I like all the substories. I felt like things were happening to people, and thus was engaged on a subject that I frankly didn’t care about – skating.
OK I didn’t like Chris, he’s a creep, but anyway.
Something To Learn
I am a very detail driven person – which makes sense as I write books on Worldbuilding. I love bits of revelation and backstory as the world comes into focus, as we learn more about the characters. Even if the details aren’t relevant to the story, they help you understand things.
You can also get interest if you’ve got plenty of things revealing and being found out and pace yourself. If people keep learning, keep finding out new things – plot-related or not – they’ll be interested. The best things of course are revelations that tie to the plot, but having fun little details also just makes the story and characters real.
An example I’ll give from this is the under-appreciated military-sf-horror film Spectral, which I strongly recommend (warning, link has spoilers). You get slow revelations over time, and only truly get the full story in the last five minutes. Each little bit, each finding about the horrors the characters face, each choice to fight back, each revelation as they try to out-think the forces against them, kept me hooked.
Keep People Engaged
You can make a 10 page short story a slog and make a 500 page novel that people loose track of time reading. It’s all how you can get them engaged. And it determines if it was worth their time.
(Remember I do all sorts of books on creativity to help you out!)