Taking Fiction Apart
The attention of the literary world has always been fixed, understandably, upon the works of fiction which have already been written. Stories as they were were considered to be all that there was. But when stories were looked at in the light of whether or not they were successful, it became possible to spot where they deviated from success.
Success was defined as ‘able to attract and hold the attention of large numbers of readers’. This usually, but not always, meant that the stories sold well, and so commercial measures might play a part in estimating success too. But sometimes a tale could be a success in a narrow context not open to such commercial forces - for example, a school play or a poem. The point was that success equated with the ability to grab and hold attention.
The more effortlessly a story did this, the more it had in place working and workable methods. If those could be isolated and replicated, it might be feasible for other authors to modify their works so that they could achieve success themselves.