Readers want to be entertained, challenged, and inspired. Writers need to develop their abilities to do this in their stories.
3 Things Readers Want
Are you a jester, a priest or a magician?
To tell a knockout story, a writer’s got to be a jester, a priest and a magician. With all three, you will have them eating out the palm of your hand.
- The Jester: Entertain ’em. If your hero does something crazy, you get them laughing—it’s a great way to get the audience to like him. It doesn’t have to be slapstick or stand-up. It can be poetry, it can be soul stuff—but it must be loose, daring, unusual.
- The Priest: Challenge ‘em. You write to give a character’s viewpoint, to drag your audience into a new world. This is often called theme—but that’s not a strong enough gut word. It’s not subversive enough. Challenge is about shaking the tree, rattling the value systems out there. Make people think twice—about religion, art, politics, commerce, sex, money.
- The Magician: Surprise ‘em. Blindside the audience. Give them that jack-in-the-box moment of truth—and deliver the punch at the same time it occurs to your hero. People hate to spot the clichés or see a plot twist coming. It doesn’t have to be the knife-behind-the-curtain moment, it can be as subtle as sleight-of-hand.
Structure is important to keep your story straight. Technique can help you polish your skills. Craft can’t be overstated but don’t forget the heart, the colour, the blood of your story—that’s all you. That’s what will make you unique as a writer.
Take a moment to think about these three elements in your own life, away from your story.
- What entertains you as a person? Maybe it’s a good jazz band or stand-up comedy. Go to a live performance; take note of the rhythms of the performers.
- When last have you tested your own belief system? Visit a strip club, go to a church you’ve never been to before. Read a book by a politician you despise. Could he be a hero in your next story?
- Most of us don’t like surprises. Even if we did, you can’t plan them. But we can look for the unexpected gifts in our lives—the headline that inspires a story, the crazy things your two-year old comes out with.
Go ice-skating or to a theme park—be spontaneous. Write a politician a letter if you don’t agree with what’s happening in your community. Speak to a stranger and find out their opinion of the world. When you get back to your writing, you will be refreshed. You will be able to add entertainment, challenges and surprises to your story.
And you will have covered the three things readers want: