From listening to my readers and following book reviews, four key topics repeatedly surface. While they’re not new ideas, they contain basic value in creating fictional worlds.
Readers wish to be swept away from their normal reality.
If readers wish to be swept away from their normal reality, our fiction has to contain something compelling or unique. This element must be intentional, not just something we hope for in our writing. And it should be identifiable. It can be an unusual setting or a fresh plot idea. Or how about an uplifting theme or a unique friendship? In order to offer something fresh yet appealing, I find it helpful to identify my readers and understand my genre.
Not only that, once we’ve swept readers off their feet, we must protect their experience by keeping them airborne—in their fictional world. They trust us not to let them come crashing back to earth without warning. Good writing remains invisible while creating a safety-net of lasting and vivid impressions. In other words, we must be careful not to do anything to draw them out of the story and ruin their fictional experience.
Readers need their emotions engaged and gratified.
In order to engage and gratify readers’ emotions, we must create fascinating characters with whom they can identify—because they are looking for an emotional connection with the story. Our stories, and especially our endings, must not leave them up in the air, but provide emotional satisfaction and resolution. Again, we target the emotions associated with our genre. Suspense readers are looking for the adrenalin rush. They enjoy a short fall as long as they land safely in the end. Romance readers need to set their feet back on earth with a contented sigh.
Readers expect a takeaway.
Readers also expect a story takeaway. When they have to come back to reality, they want something to take with them to enrich their everyday lives. It can be a spiritual theme that gives them hope in the real world. For a mystery, it might be an unexpected and intriguing twist. In women’s fiction, it might be a distinct image that provokes further thought or action—such as a family that solves their problems around the dinner table. While we foremost entertain, it’s this lingering takeaway that lives on inside our readers’ minds and excites them to spread the word about our stories. It compels them to follow our works.
Readers want to know more about authors.
Readers want to connect with us. It’s humbly amazing, and it’s the source of our greatest blessings. There’s something very intimate in the breath of story, the giving and taking that goes into the entire fictional experience. As authors, we’re sensitive beings who delight in the wonder and fear of it. And so we gladly leave our signature—a link for readers to interact with us or find out more about our writing.
What else? What do readers want from fiction?