In his introduction to Stephen King’s first collection of short stories, Night Shift, John D. MacDonald explains what it takes to become a successful writer. Diligence, a love of words, and empathy for people are three big factors. But he sums up the primary element this way: “Story. Dammit, story!”
And what is story? It is, says MacDonald, “something happening to somebody you have been led to care about.”
I want to home in on that something happening bit. It is the soil in which plot is planted, watered, and harvested for glorious consumption by the reader. Without it, the reading experience can quickly become a dry biscuit, with no butter or honey in sight.
Mind you, there are readers who like dry biscuits. Just not very many.
MacDonald reminds us that without the “something happening” you do not have story at all. What you have is a collection of words that may at times fly, but end up frustrating more than it entertains.