When you are drawn to the story you are reading, you just know it, even if it's after you've set the book down that you realize you were swept away by believable places you could almost touch, heard the character's voice in your imagination, and felt a tinge of happiness or compassion for a character, as if for a friend.
Besides when I'm reading, when I am writing, I like to be swept away and feel as though I know my characters well. Recently, I've been beginning (and sometimes finishing) stories that I may think are sort of interesting and other people have enjoyed, but I feel like they aren't exactly 'me.' These stories don't contain themes that I'd like to write (and often seem devoid of theme altogether.) I'm not sorry I wrote them, I would just rather my next project be different.
I don't believe a writer has to love every character they create or be completely passionate about every story they write, but for me, for my first possibly longer story, I'd like to feel as though I'm writing something I really love. I'd like to write a story I believe in that features a character I believe in and care about as well.
And so I'm going to reconsider the story I've begun and unabashedly dump my outline and unfinished first draft and begin again with just the characters' names. This time, I don't want to just write a story that fits together okay and that I think other people will find suspenseful, but one that is from the truest part of me.
Have you unlocked a story from within you?
And if you have, have you decided to write it?