Do you read or watch Harry Potter? Because I’m about to make what may well be an annoying analogy:
A good story is like a portkey.
At this point you must figure you know what I’m going to say next. I’ll say something like, a good story is like a portkey because they both transport you to new places, or something hokey like that, right?
Well, actually, no. That is certainly a fine argument, but it’s not the argument I am going to make today. Today, leaving all abstract concepts of stories as transportation behind, I would like to focus more specifically on how Rowling described the way using a portkey felt. Remember that? It first showed up in Book 4, and it was pretty vivid if my memory serves. She described the feeling of something hooking Harry right behind the navel and dragging him along in a breathless rush that he couldn’t stop or control. Of course, those aren’t her exact words. But the gist was the same.
That exact sensation is what you get from a well-plotted, well-paced, well-told story. Remember the last time you started reading a book and stayed up all night, even though you had to get up early in the morning, because you just couldn’t put it down? You just had to find out what happened next. No matter what.
Do you agree? To me, this is one of the ultimate goals of writing, and also one of the ultimate tests. Does your story reach out and drag the reader to the end in a breathless rush they can’t stop or control?
If not, how can you change it so that it does?