"You have to excite yourself to excite others"

Starting with this quote, that I listened to a conference, I really would know the "magic formula" (even I imagin there isn't) to excite readers with your stories and writings. I know, I have to write, to exercise, and to try, try, try... But, is everything closed in the experience? I mean, is there a path, that I can follow, to improve my writes, my stories and my thinking? Yesterday I saw True Detective (Season 1) and I remained literally shocked about its plot. I know, screenwriters are usually good writers and they are able to excite people (with twists), but how do they reach this level?

3 Answers 3


Excite is the wrong thing to focus on. The real key to successful storytelling is to engage the reader. There are no car chases or gun fights in Pride and Prejudice. It is a story of a courtship, decorously told. And yet is is probably the single most durable and popular novel ever written.

There is no magic formula. It is all about creating an experience for the reader that rings true and engages their sympathy and interest. It is about taking the dross of everyday life, running it through a juicer, and then rendering down the juice into something rich and piquant and wonderful. It is life focused, sweetened, and purified.

The writing bromides are attempts to capture aspects of this, but none of them is either sufficient or necessary in themselves. Any technique that focuses, sweetens, and purifies life to produce something engaging and true will work for readers. It is a product of sensibility, attention, and refinement. There is no formula for it, in the sense that you cannot achieve it by technique alone. To be able to do it well, you have to change who you are, develop your sensibilities, sharpen your observation, and refine your craft. You have to learn to think and see and express yourself like a writer.

There is nothing exceptional about this. Many crafts cannot be reduced to formulas. They require immersion and they change who you are, how you see the world. They rewire your brain.

The first and most essential component of becoming a writer seems to be to live your life (your whole life) with a particular kind of attention. You cannot refine life down to its essence until you train your eye to tell the gold from the dross. Some people, it seems, develop this habit of attention very early in life. Perhaps they are even born with it. The rest of us have to work on it, and it can be very hard work. But develop your powers of attention, and the words, and the order and selection of words, will come.


Contrary to the accepted answer I believe there is a magic formula to writing exciting fiction.

It's conflict and how your characters react to it.

There are lots of other aspects such as "show don't tell" where instead of saying "the air was cold" you say something like "Mary pulled her coat tight to protect her from the icy wind" (ie show how character reacts and feels to things rather than just referring to the things).

But this and other things such as stake are auxiliary. How your character reacts to conflict reveals all this.

Everything comes down to character development, which comes from how your characters react to adversity and conflict. They need to be pushed and challenged, and their reactions develop their character. This conflict and character reaction is what will excite your reader.

I recommend the book Immediate Fiction, which breaks down these concepts perfectly.

  • Your suggestions are pretty good and in some way, I belive you are not in error. It's a strange world, I mean, formula or not, writing is really difficult, cause it's not a logic process ( I think). I'll find the book.
    – Vito
    Nov 29, 2016 at 21:12
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    There are certainly elements of fiction that you can analyse and call out. But they do not constitute a complete and working formula for fiction. If there were a magic formula for fiction, every title published would be a best seller. (Why would publishers publish anything else, if there was a magic formula that could guarantee success?) Also, there would only be a handful of writers and they wouldn't make much money because they would just be employers of the publishers following the formula. But in the real world, publishing has an abysmal success rate because not one knows what will sell.
    – user16226
    Nov 29, 2016 at 23:30
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    The question asked for the magic formula to "excite readers", not necessarily for success in fiction overall. It's still possible to fail by applying the formula badly, in fact the level of success generally comes from one's ability to apply this formula. Nov 30, 2016 at 0:48
  • No, if it is possible to fail by applying the formula badly, it is not a formula. The whole point of a formula is to take skill out of the equation. There are techniques, but it takes a skilled person to apply the techniques successfully. There is a huge industry selling snake oil to aspiring writers who want there to be a formula. But there is none, and a cursory look at the state of the publishing industry is all it takes to conclusively demonstrate that there isn't one. Do you think if there was a formula that Penguin Random House or Harper Collins would not be using it?
    – user16226
    Nov 30, 2016 at 1:19

I hope I am not making an inappropriate advertisement but I recently took a course in LinkedIn "Writing Fundamentals: The Craft of Story". It is a Lynda course and I believe it answers exactly your question in a very easy and structured way.

Otherwise I should say that the most valid tip would be to follow the next requirements:

  • Have a theme (convey message about human relations);
  • Have a logically causal relation between events;
  • Leave only the events that bring something to the story;
  • Know what your reader knows (The fact that you are aware of your story doesn't mean the reader is too. Make sure to show the reader everything they need to know.);
  • Show don't tell;
  • Have interesting characters;
  • Have character development arc;
  • Create conflicts and resolutions;
  • Follow the rule "What can go wrong, must";
  • Make sure to put stakes, the protagonist should have a lot to loose if they fail.
  • Etc.;

These are only basic tips how to excite the reader. The list is to be continued. I believe in order to excite them, make sure that the reader cares about your protagonist, then have no mercy on him/her - put him/her through the worst you can thing. Meanwhile create dramatic conflicts and resolutions.

Hope this helps.

  • Just to include something very important, make sure you put stakes, the protagonist should have a lot to loose if they fail. Nov 29, 2016 at 11:35
  • Your bullet list is in reverse order of importance, I think. Conflict is the most important ingredient, followed by character development (how they react to conflict) then show don't tell etc. Nov 29, 2016 at 20:31
  • Maybe yes. I wanted to go from the most general one to the more concrete. But I never intended this to be a strict list in any way. Different writers would find some things more important and include many other elements. This is what came to me in prima vista. Nov 30, 2016 at 10:12

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