Recently, I was asked by a writer friend my thoughts on writing what I want versus writing what the reader wants. As a writer, of course, we all want to be paid to write whatever it is that we want, but we also need to make money. So, this can become an epic mental struggle for all of us. It is also difficult for readers because I feel that they want to read the story the way that the writer imagined it. But they also get invested in the story and characters and have an idea of how they want it to go.
What is a writer to do?
For me, the answer to this question has always been that a writer can have the best of both worlds. A writer can come up with a concept for a story and still give the reader what they want. These things are not mutually exclusive. Don’t get me wrong–sometimes, no matter what you do, you just won’t please a person reading your work. There will always be someone who does not enjoy a story (or several) that you have written.
When I conceive of a story idea, characters, outline the plot…all I care about is telling the story in a way that is concise, interesting, engaging, and (hopefully) hits all of the appropriate emotions for the reader. I want a reader to sit down and just be entertained. I think if a writer can do that, then the rest takes care of itself. You don’t have to write a specific genre or characters or tell a certain type of story to make readers happy.
Readers just want to feel engaged and not cheated. If it can also make them think, create dialogue, represent marginalized peoples, include unique story elements…all the better. A reader wants to try a writer’s work and walk away thinking: “I can read any of this author’s work and feel like it was worth my time.”
So, to answer this question, I would have to say that when a writer comes up with a story idea, they have a few tasks they need to complete before they write.
How can I make this story engaging?
How can I make this story as concise and crisp as possible?
What core emotions am I trying to convey with the theme of this story? How do I best convey this?
What do I want the writer to feel when they close the book?
What is absolutely necessary to include so that this story is told and what should I leave out so that it does not slow down the story?
If a writer can figure these things out, they will find readers who want to read their story. Granted, no matter how gifted you are as a storyteller, no matter how well you write technically, you may never find an audience. If a writer focuses more on how to tell the best story with the concept that they are passionate about, the rest seems to fall into place. Eventually.
Tremendous Love & Thanks