What Readers Want

By on September 8, 2016
What Readers Want - Writer's Life.org

Every writer knows that if they understand what their readers want they are far more likely to sell their books.

Of course, you can write a book for yourself, but if you don’t write with your readers in mind, it will be hard to find a way of connecting with them.

So much writing advice states that by researching your audience and getting into their mindset, you will be able to see exactly what they are looking for in a story, and create yours in such a way that it has mass appeal. Perhaps this simplifies the complex writing process too much, but there is no denying that thorough research and understanding of what your readers want can only help you write a successful and popular story.

So just what do readers want? While of course, we can’t speak for every reader out there (we all have different tastes, opinions, and lifestyles which influence what we read), when it comes to fiction, there are certain things to include.

Making the impossible possible

The most beautiful thing about fiction writing that nothing must be confined to the real world. This doesn’t just apply to fantastical, magical stories; it can be applied to anything. In fiction, absolutely anything can happen, and as long as it is written in an engaging and convincing way, readers will buy into that.

If you can get your audience to believe in your story they get to take a lovely little holiday from the real world and become fully immersed in another where they are simply an observer - this is very relaxing, and why a lot of people enjoy reading!

Striking an emotional chord

Readers need to care about your characters and the position that they find themselves in. Whether you make them laugh, cry, feel angry, scared or unsettled, you need to do something that makes them react in an emotional way.

Catalysing change

If a novel changes us in some way, it motivates us to act. That might be just to see things differently, to pick up the phone to an old friend, to try to reconnect with a past lover. If a book can inspire us to be better, braver, more compassionate, then it will be remembered. Readers who feel changed after they have read a book will feel as though they have got something out of it -and  it will satisfy them

Characters we can identify with

Having strong characters is an essential ingredient in any book. While there is no need to write every character in your book in a way that readers identify with them, at least one (usually your protagonist) should be someone they are rooting for. Most human beings see themselves as a huge number of things, brave and fearful, happy and sad, calm and angry - flawed, but inherently good. Most well-loved protagonists, whoever they are, embrace all these characteristics so that readers, whoever they are, can identify and sympathise with them.

A story full of mystery, suspense, drama and action

Stories need to be good. You can have a fantastic idea, but unless you can realise that idea by telling it in an interesting way, then your story simply won’t do well. The best books are full of dramatic tension, action, struggles and conflicts - whether you are writing a romance or a gruesome horror, these are the elements that keep us turning those pages.

A good ending

Every story needs a good ending - be it happy or sad, the story needs to be resolved. So whether your reader finishes the final page and feels elated, or distraught, they need to feel something final and satisfying - they need it to end.

Understanding the key things readers look for in a book will help you stay focused on what matters when you are writing your own. What do you think your readers look for? Let us know!

Bethany Cadman -author of 'Doctor Vanilla's Sunflowers'

Bethany Cadman -author of 'Doctor Vanilla's Sunflowers'

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