This particular utterance by Francis W. Porretto seems unusually pertinent to me and to the fictional realm in which I’ve been working:
A sound story will illuminate one or more of the eternal verities. It’s an element as necessary as a cast of characters: the “steak” of the fictional product. But the entertainment value of the story will arise from how cleverly and imaginatively the writer casts the conflicts that envelop his protagonists: the “sizzle” that will draw the reader into the tale, and will cause him to seek out that writer’s works in the future. Though he would spurn a writer who failed to provide a goodly portion of “steak,” the intelligent reader becomes a fan of a particular writer almost entirely because of the “sizzle.”
And we who write are fully aware of it.
Over in the ponyverse, a subset of said sizzle is referred to, perhaps ungrammatically, as “feels”: the implication is that we respond robotically in the absence of same. Forty percent of the way through The way she used to be, I drew this reader comment:
Even at this stage in the proceedings, the feels are starting to flutter. Not full, tear-jerking feels, but I have a feeling that they’ll be getting there.
Even though due attention was paid to certain eternal verities kindness is eventually rewarded, sex for the sake of sex is not necessarily a bargain, and broken hearts are at least somewhat mendable I’d likely have lost this reader, and undoubtedly several others, were it not for regular tugs at the heartstrings. (No, not you, Lyra.) And this isn’t purely a function of the romance genre, either: Dead Pony Flying, which opens after the funeral of one of the Mane Six, seems like it ought to be immeasurably sad, yet the ending is downright triumphant, and sometimes I think I actually hear the smiles.
And the more I think about it, the happier I am about it. I’m sure, given proper instruction and a metric ton of reference materials, I could construct an intricate plot involving characters who’d rather be doing something else but are needed to impart a Great Moral Lesson but who’d want to read it?