The type of writing I am most interested in is storytelling, and the types of stories I am most interested in are those that show how people can grow and change--what George Saunders calls "higher order" stories.
I don't exclusively write this kind of story. Sometimes, my characters just don't seem to have it in them. The opportunity presents itself, and they fail to seize it. But I'm less interested in spending time with people who are utterly stuck. In my experience, this is how most people operate most of the time, and it isn't very compelling. It's hard to find the faith to believe that people can change. In my day-to-day life, it's a faith I have a hard time conjuring. Still, when I'm writing, I try to hold onto it as best as I'm able.
I'm also very interested in history, especially small-scale history-- the stories that are largely unnoticed and yet shape a community. I try to visit local history museums and other strange collections of human lore. When I find something interesting, I tuck it away for later, usually unsure when it might resurface in my writing.
In a way, all fiction writers really are is collectors of stories, unfettered historians of a minor order. We don't really invent things whole cloth, even when we think we are. Rather, we weave together moments from our little personal and collected histories into narratives intended to explain both who we are as people and where we come from. That's what I'm trying to do anyway.