Think for a moment which stories you’ve read that are the most memorable. If you had to pick a favorite for the last year what would it be? What was your favorite story as a child? Now take it a step farther: Why?
A well-written story takes you to another world, into “the zone” if you will, where you can at least temporarily escape the mundane. It may be somewhere in the past, in a world that only exists in the imagination, or full of thrills and excitement. Your favorite genre will provide you with a clue regarding what you crave to experience, albeit vicariously. Think about that old advertisement from years past that left you with the words, “Take me away, Calgon!” Where would that be?
The next time you’re loving a story, one you hate to put down, when you step back to reality think about why you find it so appealing. Which part of you does it strike with a responsive chord? Understanding what you like in a story can help you enhance your own with similar traits. Is it strong characters? Exotic settings? A complex plot? Excitement your own life lacks? Details that make it come alive as opposed to strictly action and dialog?
The next step is to apply similar characteristics to your own writing.