One of the reasons literature majors don’t automatically turn into great writers is that they tend to focus on the wrong things when it comes to analyzing fiction. They aren’t alone. Most analysis content on the web focuses on things like themes, allegory, imbedded messages, prose, and (in genres like fantasy) world-building, and magic systems.
These elements aren’t unimportant, but they are not what makes a story a good, memorable read. Here’s what writers should focus on instead (in no particular order):
- Story events. What happens? What order do things happen in? What was unpredictable? What impact did the events have?
- Dialogue. Readers get attached to characters through dialogue.
- Character action. Readers love characters by loving what they do.
- Pacing. Pacing has more to do with the importance of a scene and its tension than it does with the speed of prose.
- The stakes. This is the core of the main conflict or main plot goal – how does the story matter?
With these five things in mind, I think it is easy to see how a typical reader is going to get bored reading “literary fiction.” Personal, “deep” stories often contain low stakes, minimal story events or story events with low importance, an abundance of prose, and many scenes of character interaction that are superfluous to the plot.
What you focus on when you engage in analysis is just as important as taking the time to analyze in the first place.
There are many more tips like this one in my new book for maximizing creative output – The Keys to Prolific Creativity, out in March!