Last night I watched the season finale of So You Think You Can Dance. Say what you like. It's a great show. These kids are incredibly talented and well-rounded dancers, and most of them have trained for years to get there. The winner this season was hard to predict, even for the judges, because everyone in the top 20 was that good. I think it was Jeanine's combination of personality and technical skill that gave her the little bump over the edge to win. Also, in the last interviews before the finale, she was more confident she could win.
Naturally this got me thinking about the competition for agents, editors, book contracts, and readers. Because there's a lot of really good work out there. And if everyone's work is good, it's hard to single out the ones who are going to make it. Which means we have to engage readers in much the same way the dancers engage the audience. Not only do we have to impress with our skill, but we have to let our personalities shine, and write characters people will fall in love with. That doesn't mean they have to be all nicey-nice. But they do have to be people you can't take your eyes off of, or in this case, can't stop reading more about.
Talent and hard work aren't enough. You have to find a way to be confident, unique, and endearing at the same time.