What makes a story successful? Is it the characters, the plot, the action scenes? Maybe the body count, the adrelin rush? For me, I can't tell if a story I've read (or a movie I've watched) was successful until a few days later. My criteria is simple: Did it haunt me? Am I thinking about it or talking about it days later? Did I have to tell someone else about it?
One thing that distracts me is a constant beat in a story. Choppy sentences. They drive me nuts. I need variety. Feels like Chinese water torture. Get the point? BUT. Then I came across this little gem of a story by a fellow Backspacer, Gail Konop Baker: http://www.danforthreview.com/fiction/09_03/konop_baker.htm called The Pacifier. This story, if you don't have time to read it (your loss, btw) is entirely designed and built on chop. Chop. Chop. Chop. Chop. Chop. And you know what? It absolutely haunted me. I actually read it a few weeks ago and I still can't get it out of my head. I had to read it again. Brilliant.
A good lesson. Some stories demand that rules be broken. I am a big sissy when it comes to breaking rules. I don't like to do it. I actually feel my anxiety level rise when I even think about it. Yeah, I color inside the lines, too. (Actually, I was taught to outline the lines with a darker color before coloring to emphasize them.) Hmmm. There's a great little insight into my discomfort.
So, anyway, I'm trying to think of rules as more of suggestions or guidelines. Ones with barely visible dotted lines around my writing instead of big, dark, black solid ones. I still do believe that you have to know the rules in order to break them. At least, in order to appreciate breaking them.