As a reader I’ll forgive a lot if you give me some thrilling heroics in your story. Doesn’t matter if it’s a book, a TV show, a play, or an audio presentation. Give me excitement. Give me derring-do. Give me reason to cheer.
Add in a love story, and you’ve got me hooked.
Sure, you don’t need to have fast-paced heroism, and clear heroes and clear villains, to involve me in a story. I can and do enjoy methodical thought pieces.
But, to be honest, it’s just easier to bring me in with heroes and heroics. Give me someone to root for, someone to boo, a threat faced, a challenge overcome, and I’m happy.
Does this mean that you can skimp on deep character development or involved world building. Eh. Not really. Well, maybe a little but only a little.
The key there is thrilling heroics. They can’t be thrilling if I don’t care about the hero, about those threatened, about even bystanders along the way. They can’t be thrilling if I don’t believe the hero, and the villain, would act the way they do. You can get away with less depth in lesser characters because by definition they don’t do much and we only need enough to fit what they do. If the cab driver is just taking Our Hero from the airport to the hotel we don’t need to know that he washed out of law school, went on a month long bender that broke him up with his fiance and ended up in rehab before finally starting to put his life together and getting a job driving taxi (at least he’d never had a DUI even while drunk out of his mind). But we have to believe that Our Hero is going to charge through machine gun fire into a burning building for someone he hardly even knows. So you’ve got to have your character developed enough that when that happens we believe it.
Likewise with world building. I’ve got to believe the threat. And I’ve got to believe the actions available to the character.
A good example of that is the series Buffy the Vampire Slayer. In a group devoted to discussing the series someone made the comment that it was strange that Buffy and her friends (collectively known as the “Scoobies”) didn’t use cell phones to keep in touch and coordinate their actions. However, when the series was made, particularly the first few seasons, cell phones were still high end items and not in common usage. I didn’t have my own cell phone until the third season was out.
So if your characters have cell phones (which here is a stand-in for whatever bit of worldbuilding might affect the plot) then either have your characters use them when appropriate or give them a good reason not to.
So, develop your character. Develop your world. Hell, put in a “message” if that’s what you want. But wrap it up in something for me to care about.
And if you succeed in that wrapper, your prose can limp a little. I can let the occasional lapse in other aspects pass. I can even disagree with your message and still enjoy the story. I’ve done it before. I can do it for you.
So give me some thrilling heroics. Give me big damn heroes:
And if you can throw in a love story. That’s good too.
And if you give me that, well, that’s the kind of thing that gets me to give you money in return.