I wanted to piggy-back off of that post; expand on it, if you will, to include the story itself. As a genre writer, you know all the tricks and tropes of the trade, or should. Especially in the horror field; the creaking door, the errant wind carrying with it, the scent of decay. The ghostly image, glimpsed from the corner of the eye. Every horror writer knows these devices, and uses them to lethal effect. But if you want to elevate your writing beyond the clichéd rehashes of stories before, you need to dig deeper, to go beyond the surface level to the hidden truth of your story, to human nature itself.
Think about it. What elevates Stephen King’s ‘Salem’s Lot, above the scores of other vampire stories before and after it. One blood sucker is as good (or bad) as another, right? If you, as a writer, haven’t thought about this, or a similar situation, then you should. You want to stand out, don’t you? To give the potential reader a reason to pick your book over another along similar lines? Of course, you do.
In my opinion, what makes King’s work stand apart is the human factor. He makes you care about the characters, gives them something to lose – and then takes it from them. It’s not just about a badass vampire (although, he certainly gives you that, in spades). It’s about creating believable characters with faults and promise, doing the best that they can, just the way real humans do it, every single day. It’s about taking even the most fantastical situation, and breaking it down into its component parts, so that the reader is left with the feeling that there was no other outcome.
Look at your story as an excavation. You are unearthing something valuable from the muck and mire around it. You write a story, all in a rush of inspiration and hunger, and then, extract from it the hidden gem you knew was there, all along. Sometimes, to get the story out the way it should be, you have to use dynamite, deleting entire scenes without mercy, no matter how great they are in your mind. If they don’t move the story along, they slow it down. Remember that. Sometimes, you have to bring out the subtler tools to chip and brush away that which encumbers and bulks up your story, leaving only that which is necessary, which moves your story inevitably forward, and leaves the reader gasping for breath, and wanting more.
Have you ever read something so powerful that it left you in awe? Characters you couldn’t bear to part with? A story that burned bright in your imagination long after you had reached the end? As a writer, your goal is (or should be) to give your readers that sensation. If you want to do that, you have to dig deeper, to look into the heart of your story and tell the truth viewed there to the best of your ability. Ask yourself, “Is that all?” and dig deeper. And dig deeper, still, until you have revealed the story in all its glory. Get rid of the clichés, the unnecessary words and passages and dialogue, the “writerly” stuff that serves nothing but your own ego.
That’s where the story is.
That’s where the beauty is.