In an interview with James Altucher, bestselling author Brad Meltzer points out that the plot isn’t what captures the reader’s attention (or the author’s attention for that matter).
What really counts is the motivation of the character. That’s what people care about.
Meltzer asks himself about each character:
- What does my character want?
If he doesn’t know the answer to these questions then he can’t include them in the story. He has to be able to identify what a character wants and why.
It reminds me of Kurt Vonnegut’s advice to writers: “Give your characters an immediate motivation.”
As readers, we identify with a character because we want to see if they get what they want.
Even stories with bad guy protagonists like House of Cards keep us watching (or reading) to find out if the characters succeed in reaching their goals.
You might tell people about the plot of your story to get their attention, but the real heart of the story is the motivations your characters have to achieve a specific desire.