The things I’ve done that worked the best were the things I was the least certain about, the stories where I was sure they would either work, or more likely be the kinds of embarrassing failures people would gather together and talk about until the end of time. They always had that in common: looking back at them, people explain why they were inevitable successes. And when I was doing them, I had no idea.
I really have very little idea about what will make someone sit up and pay attention. I mean, there are a few moments in my books that I can point to and say, “That. That I love.” and it’s had the same response from readers — made them laugh or swear or whatever. But mostly I watch someone reading and they snicker or raise an eyebrow and I pounce on them saying, “What is it?”* Because they find these tiny things to adore that leave me blinking and saying, “Really?” They rise up passionate in response to something I wrote offhand, or laugh out loud at something I thought was just… you know, a thing that was a bit funny maybe.
My theory is that people are horrifyingly unique and unpredictable.** Stress the ‘horrifyingly’. Because I’m all for people being all unique and interesting but it’s very hard to figure out how to please them or manipulate their hearts or make them laugh if they’re going to go around being amused/delighted/dismayed/incensed at random.
I guess I’ll just have to keep writing to amuse myself and check the bookstore again for a Humanity for Dummies book. It’s got to be out there somewhere. There’s so many of us stumbling around in the dark.
* Which I understand is very annoying and possibly I shouldn’t watch people read my work but it is fascinating.
** Or I’m bad at people, but I’m hoping that’s not it.