All successful fiction is vacuum-driven.
That means that incompletenesses, emptinesses, holes, missing things and the like lie at the heart of all successful stories. It’s the type and amount of emptiness which makes them successful both in terms of numbers of readers and level of emotional impact.
You can have vacuums which draw readers so close to characters that they share those characters’ vicarious experiences, sense by sense, and actually care what happens to them.
You can have vacuums which pull the tale along, making it a ‘page turner’ — it’s the vacuum power which is literally pulling readers through the story, page after page.
You can have vacuums which glue readers to the page, so that as they are dragged through each scene, their attention remains intensely focused on what is happening.
You can have vacuums which morally engage readers in making choices which are central to the story’s plot and theme and make it more personal for readers.
And you can have ‘core vacuums’ which pull all this together and make sure that readers leave the book feeling fulfilled (or intentionally unfulfilled if you’re writing a Tragedy or Irony).
To learn much more about these five types of vacuum, you’ll need to get and read my five-star-rated book How Stories Really Work. It contains examples from classic and modern literature, TV and film screenplays to fully enlighten you. What it contains is unique -- you'll search in vain for this elsewhere.
What I wanted to point out here was that, even with all the vacuum power above operating at maximum capacity, you still need to know more about where to aim it.
Let’s put all the readers in the world into one circle; then, into another circle, let’s put all your fiction. Based on what we’ve been saying about readers’ needs and vacuums above, you could hardly expect that all the readers in the world are going to be interested in your fiction. Not all readers have the needs or wants or desires or expectations that your fiction evokes.
But some do. Some will find that their needs, wants, desires and expectations will find an exact match in your writings. These are your readers, your niche audience, the people who will find satisfaction in your work, as in the diagram above.
The more powerful the vacuum, the wider the theme, the more universal the appeal, then the larger that middle group will become. If you write a story which has as its complete concern the minutiae of military affairs at the beginning of the nineteenth century, your audience will probably be fairly small; but if you evoke more vacuum power by drawing readers closer to particular characters, pulling the tale along, gluing readers to each page, morally engaging them in difficult and central choices and then bring this all together to make sure that readers finish the book with a powerful resolution of some kind, you will have on your hands a classic bestseller like Tolstoy’s War and Peace —which on the one hand is about the minutiae of military affairs at the beginning of the nineteenth century, but on the other is to do with the human condition on the grandest scale imaginable.
And this brings us to another powerful point to do with metaphors -- a point so powerful, in fact, that it deserves its own post.