What point are you making? And how much do you want to cover? The writer should work with these two questions throughout the entire writing process. Too many try to cover everything, attempting to write the definitive piece. But there will never be a definitive anything. As a writer, you don’t write to explain or define something. You focus on an interesting angle, and you’re precise and clear with it. You’ve got a point to make, and not everything is relevant. Understanding this is key if you want to write well.
You just can’t cover the entire topic. All Quiet on the Western Front, for example, is about World War 1, but it doesn’t cover the war from every perspective. It’s a story about some German schoolboys being influenced by a patriotic teacher and becoming soldiers. It shows the tragedy of war from a relatively small perspective. And the readers get far closer to the reality of the bigger picture through a story that focuses on a select experience.
Think small. The theme in my current novel is identity. My protagonist is dealing with who they are, but that’s about it. I’m not attempting to tackle every identity issue that anyone could encounter. And I’m not trying to generalise my character’s issue to connect with more people. If you think that way, you won’t connect with anyone. I’m writing about a small, specific issue. And I do hope that it will relate to people, but through the quality of my writing and how well I’ve communicated my character’s nature.
Write well, be niche, and still engage readers.
Have you ever identified with a character who has nothing to do with you? They live in a different era and country. They have a different profession, incomprehensible passions. If you met them in real life, there’s no way you’d be friends. But you identify with them, and you understand them? That’s writing.
I think about Jean-Baptiste Grenouille in Perfume, an unloved orphan in 18th-century France who is born with an exceptional sense of smell and becomes a serial killer. There’s nothing in that character description to which I could possibly relate. Still, I felt close to him throughout the entire story, with intense empathy. His self-imposed reclusive stay in the mountains was particularly relatable, reminding me of my own trips into nature, alone in my tent.
What point are you making? And how much do you want to cover? Thinking small will yield the best results. There’s no drawback to it. By exploring the examples from my novel and Perfume, being precise with an issue and character will capture a reader’s attention. The temptation to cover more is something that everyone feels, but let it go, focus on something small, be specific and succinct, and your writing will be so much better.