I once heard an editor describe commercial fiction as “potato chip reads”. Have you ever actually eaten a giant bag of potato chips? Afterward, did you feel sick? Not just sick to your stomach but also faintly empty in spirit?
Potato chip reads leave us feeling like that because they lack meaning. Now, that is not to say they lack theme. Plenty of genre novels have durable foundations: good versus evil, justice will be done, love conquers all. Even so they can leave us unsatisfied.
Meaning comes from a human journey. Fiction writers call this by lots of names: arc, change, transformation, redemption. Most manuscripts, though, either fail to send their characters on a true journey or reduce that journey to a few steps.
A true journey is not just all that we experience but how we understand it: our minds in nova, our hearts seeking peace. What is it that gives a journey the power to shake convictions, move hearts, connect humankind and leave readers feeling nostalgic for people who never actually lived? [Read more…]