Whether we know it or not, the events and people around us can affect us in ways we don’t even realize, sometimes motivating actions we normally wouldn’t dream of taking. We act out in anger in the blink of an eye before we even comprehend what made us angry in the first place. We shut down in shock when we’re subjected to trauma too great for us to handle. We don’t always choose to act the way we do, but there is always a reason, even if it’s buried deep in our subconscious. The same is as true for our characters as it is for us, affecting everything in our story from plot to conflict to stakes.
A story can fall flat when your story does not have the momentum to push the reader forward page by page. A strong narrative drive directs everything in your story toward one point and keeps the plot from wandering and focused in the direction it needs to go. We grab the reader’s attention by presenting the protagonist with heavy consequences for failure to reach their goals. Each action builds upon the last until we finally reach the end. Cause and effect. Plain and simple. Anything that doesn’t fit into this cause-and-effect relationship doesn’t belong in the story, unless it is part of a parallel plot or subplot.