For a story to stick with a reader, it has to have emotional impact. This can be one of the most difficult techniques to learn. In conversation, we will typically simply use an adverb but that usually won’t actually convey a sense of the emotion effectively.
Learn to render emotions as opposed to using a simple modifier. The best way to understand this technique is to think of the physical symptoms that accompany a given emotion. For example, compare the impact of “He fumed with anger” to “His eyes flashed daggers, fists tightening at his sides.” That will work whether or not its your viewpoint character. You’re simply noting what is observed.
If it’s your protagonist’s viewpoint, you can try something like: “His heart raced, fury surging through him like a fire storm.” This is more personal and wouldn’t be appropriate for a non-viewpoint character.
There are various books written on how to render emotion so that gives you some idea of what a challenge this can be. Yet it is a skill worth acquiring because when you make your reader feel something, they’re more likely to remember it and, by association, you as the author.
Next up on the list of reader gripes is when the characters are all the same. This occurs primarily with inexperienced writers who don’t know how to develop a character properly and just plug a name into the action without bringing him, her, or even it, to life.
Characters should be as distinctive as possible. They shouldn’t look alive, talk alive, or behave alike. The more contrast, the better. Best case, the reader should be able to tell them apart from their dialog alone. Give them speech patterns and mannerisms that make them into a unique person. Interesting characters are what draw readers into the story as much as the plot line. If you don’t care about the people in the story, it has little impact. Building memorable characters is a skill every author should develop.
As part of the admonition to “show, don’t tell”, learn to render emotions as opposed to using a simple modifier. Compare the impact of “He fumed with anger” to “His eyes flashed daggers, fists tightening at his sides” or “His heart raced, fury surging through him like a fire storm.” Concentrate on the physical sensations of the emotion you’re trying to express to capture what it actually feels like. One of the marks of good writing is conveying emotions to your reader in an effective manner. If your reader feels something, then your story is upgraded to an experience and becomes much more memorable.