1) In what is believed to be the last essay ever written by Frank Herbert, he responded to a question about the most important piece of writing advice he ever got.
“The single most important piece if advice I ever got was to concentrate on story. What is “story”? It’s the quality that keeps the reader following the narrative. A good story makes interesting things happen to a character with whom the reader can identify. And it keeps them happening, so that the character progresses and grows in stature.
A writer’s job is to do whatever is necessary to make the reader want to read the next line. That’s what you’re supposed to be thinking about when you write a story.”
2) Known for his brevity, Larry Niven simply said, “Your reader has his rights. Tell him a story and make him understand it, or you’re fired.”
In a more long-winded moment, he said:
“Start with a story. Tell yourself a story. Are you in this to show off your stylistic skills? They’ll show best if you use them to shape the story. Calling attention to the lurking author hurts the story.
A good stylist really can turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse; and he’ll be forgotten in favor of the average yokel who had just brains enough to start with silk.”
“When you write a story of your own, you start with a good idea. You work hard because you notice the harder you work, the better the story gets. Then you discovered the story doesn’t have the effect on others that you know it should and you don’t know why. I’m going to tell you – watch my lips.
You didn’t do much with your idea. You unconsciously assumed that because it was such a fine strong, sleek and even potentially dangerous idea, it could run the story by itself.
If I could give you one piece of advice…, it would be this: Think of yourself as a wild beast trainer, and your idea a s a big cat in a show; walking out onto stage and saying, “Hey, look at my lion,” isn’t going to cut it. Is your idea going to jump through a hoop of flame? Is it going to climb onto the shoulders of two other ideas and roar?
You’ve got an idea…, and that’s good; now let’s see you put your head in the idea’s mouth.”