I came across this post on Dan Renfro’s blog and was immediately struck by the truth of it. He was speaking of writing articles and not novels or short stories, but I believe what he says is totally applicable to writers of all backgrounds.
It isn’t about just saying something interesting, or telling a story, it’s about involving the reader in some way. Not necessarily breaking the fourth wall, but in just speaking of something in a way that is universal—an emotional reaction to a situation; a common, every day event that we’ve all experienced; something personal or intimate. But make it real, make it hit home. Facts, descriptions, no matter how engrossing or believable, can never touch a reader like an appeal to their own lives and experiences.
That’s why stories that are character driven make up many of the timeless pieces of literature. Century after century, humans are basically the same: we still cry, laugh, and love, and the stories that remind us of these things are those that are compelling and touch us deep inside, that we carry with us and think of many years after we’ve read them.