Of all the “W”s of a story, (Who/Where/What/When/Why) there’s another WHY that may be the most important. Another blogger, Jennie Nash, addressed it succinctly here.
It’s the why you must tell this story.
I see this more and more with critique exchanges, of which I have done too many to count, and maybe most of all for picture book manuscripts. I’ve read nicely constructed stories based on tried and true formulas that are spelled out in writing craft books and repeated in writerly conventions or blogs. “This is how you should do it,” is their essential message, which the writer then followed to a T.
Many use so-called mentor texts. Every bit of how-to advice is incorporated.
What’s missing, sorely utterly absent, is the passion for the story.
These painted by the numbers creations remind me of birds without wings. Nice colors, pleasant faces, point-on beaks.
But they don’t fly.
It’s far easier to comb the feathers of inspired stories that, even in an un-polished state, already soar.
I’ve seen feedback that try to blow air beneath these flightless stories by suggesting a stronger action, more tension, tighter phrasing, etc. What the person giving feedback is not saying (because we try to be polite and kind) is that the passion is missing.
If you ask: “Why did you write this story?” A likely answer is a version of “I read publishers/agents are looking for such.” Or, “my kids liked that other story so I used it as a mentor text.”
Better: “Why were you burning to write this story?”
Putting it this way, I find that with wingless stories there’s rarely an answer.
For myself, I start with that WHY. Why must I write it?
Then it’s a GO.