I like stories where “nothing happens”. Where I’m not “hooked” in the first sentence with little plot treats like a puppy. I don’t need the villain to be redeemable or the hero to be relatable. That last bit will become contradictory in a sec just wait you can point at it later and call me an idiot that’s fine.
I like the stories where I’m slowly lowered into a setting before being shoved into the action. I like stories where the characters do things that I could do on any given day. I like stories that can’t be spooled up by ChatBallGT because ChatBallGT doesn’t have a database of daily human interaction or diaries to pull from. It can only go off the hard structured save the heroes cat journey that is detailed in writing advice columns everywhere.
They say to write stories that you would like to read but I can’t ignore how much people expect a three act structure and would skim over the parts I like just to get to the action or “the point” only to arrive at the end of the book with empty hands.
I’ve got a bunch of little story concepts and have trouble finishing them because I’m looking for an ending to something that doesn’t have one. My current stuff tends to end abruptly or without conclusion not because it didn’t have closure but because the feeling of the story had ended. Things that occur afterwards are something altogether different and so I just leave them off for another time or let the reader run with it.
So what do I like? I love reading about personal events or the things that happen between getting from one point to another. If a character is in a coffee shop waiting on someone I want to experience that coffee shop with the character. I want to know what music is playing, the smell of the coffee brewing, the music in the background, the mixed matched tables and chairs, the broken floor tiles, the chrome topped glass sugar container next to the plastic cube of sweet-n-low packets, the people in the corners doing laptop things and paperwork pretending not to notice their surroundings, the cork board on the wall murdered with business cards and flyers for the wildest independent professions. All of that. Waiting on the coffee to come in a battle damaged mug that has cream in it when they didn’t ask for cream but now there is conflict but we can ignore it because our character doesn’t care, they are thinking about something more important and it just runs on from there.
Nothing is happening but so much is going on. Stuff that in 100 years they will be looking back and saying “I wonder what going to x was really like?” But we never wrote it down because it’s so common and boring to us that we want to skip it to get to the genre element that is supposed to be kicking in in 3 more sentences.
Writers are told to cut everything that doesn’t move the plot. Cut characters. Cut scenes. Never let the reader get bored and stop reading. Machine gun dopamine writing. Write three books at once, publish one every few months to keep readers engaged. Anything under 100k words is a sign of weakness. Never stop producing content or you will lose their attention and losing attention means failure.
Yeah, that’s not for me.
Because I do want to relate to the characters, there it is, but not so much in a “Hey they’re just like me!” relationship but a “Where are they taking me today?” relationship. I want to experience things through them even if it is something that I could actually just go off and do myself. Perhaps it does get you to go out and do something. If the character goes to the coffee shop and has a great time maybe I’ll be stoked when I go to one and have a similar experience because it’s not something wildly out of reach.
I know people prefer escapism in their literature. The real world is all work and no play so take me away from it. Or, more realistically you want to read about something terrible (see people overcome a great evil or do something terrible) but behind the safety glass of fiction knowing such horrors are not real and the hero saves the day or the final girl (readers pov) survives.
I do want to read the laundry list of food the Hobbits are having at the party. I do want to read about two people eating at a Denny’s in Japan all night. I do want to read a pay-per-view account of going to town to get flowers for a party that won’t happen for another 50k words. I do want to read about every little step it takes to commit the crime. I do want to read about Naruto eating ramen for the whole issue. I do want to watch that ghastly grizzly beetle-ridden old house crumble before my eyes. I want to read about extremely specific things that occur that don’t move the plot. I don’t need a plot. I just need the experience of the characters. That and maybe a little murder mystery, as a treat. 🙂