We all have to ask ourselves this at some point in our writing careers. Probably multiple times in a single draft or book. What makes our stories compelling? Is it the plot? The characters? What makes that magic spark which helps our books speak to readers?
For me, it’s the characters. If I can’t care about the characters, I can’t care about the story. Period.
There is a recent movie, I won’t name it, which is a fail for me. I absolutely cannot care about the characters. Couldn’t tell you one name of a character from the film. It’s a so-so film for me because the story isn’t compelling to me.
Compelling and sympathetic characters make even the oldest plot line become fresh and exciting. They create the magic spark which can land us an agent, get a publishing house to back us up, and ultimately get our books into homes around the world.
So, while plot is important and you should spend a decent amount of time developing it and trying to make it seem somewhat unique on its own, really focus and worry about the characters.
Because if you don’t, your story might not stick with anyone. Then where will we be?
(Probably still typing away at our computers.)