Readers’ Wants

Back when I did my first blog post, I talked about what I called the “Misery Complex” (in reference to Stephen King’s famous novel), and how writers’ and readers’ wants can clash. Granted, not all fans are crazy and obsessive about authors and fictional characters, like Annie Wilkes, but there is no denying that once a story is out there, it can touch so many people in individual ways in that they feel a special connection. And as they become attached to fictional characters, it’s still important to consider their feelings. Or isn’t it?

I’ve noticed this especially in drama and TV shows, like Downton Abbey and Game of Thrones, with fans theorizing and predicting where the story and subplots will go or could’ve gone, along with characters, and expressing their upset when things don’t happen in a certain way. The latter is especially true when characters die, don’t end up together, or character growth just vanishes. To be fair, with killing characters, writers cannot always be hated and blamed the way they have been, especially in drama, when actors decide they want to leave and pursue other projects. It’s not always easy to explain a character’s absence once the actor leaves. There may not be actors in books, but still, it’s easier to put unwarranted blame on writers.

It’s true not everyone has a happy ending, and sometimes one bad turn can in the end lead to a good one, but is there a line that ought not to be crossed? I certainly cannot argue how upsetting it is when a story seems to building something or someone up only to not lead there at the end. When there’s an anticlimax to anything from a story line to a character arc to a romance, it is usually disappointing. I sometimes find myself imagining (not always in great detail) where things could’ve gone in a story where I felt writing was lazy. That’s what’s lead to a number of fans writing fanfiction.

But at least there’s one point on which writers and readers can agree: stories and characters matter, as does what happens to them. Nevertheless, they originate with the writers. I said in my importance of names presentation characters are the children of an author’s imagination. Well, the same can be said of stories as a whole: an author sires them, and then they venture out into the world. That’s why I firmly feel the author should have the final say in what happens in his or her work, and I’d hope readers would respect that.

But I’m not unfeeling towards readers. After all, writers seek out the opinions of others in beta readers and critique groups while they are developing the story. So yes, readers can have input, and sometimes fans’ suggestions can ignite a spark in the writer’s imagination when they can’t figure out where to take the story next (even if it isn’t what readers specifically want), especially within a series. So, in conclusion, they both matter. Readers’ opinions should be considered, but the final decision belongs to the writer alone.

P.S. I want to apologize for the inconvenience for those who saw this post in advance a few days ago. I meant to schedule it at a different time and clicked the wrong button. This was not intentional, but given the post’s subject matter, I can’t help but feel the irony. Happy Holidays!

18 thoughts on “Readers’ Wants

  1. Pingback: Readers’ Wants - JamieAdStories

  2. I love the want of this piece and cannot agree more that there is often conflict between what the readers and writers want for the characters in the story. The important thing for the writer is to do what feels write (pun intended!)

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Great post, Andrew! I just saw a movie where the fans of a bestselling author were so irate after she killed off one of her popular characters. Her response to her readers: Because I’m the author! LOL! So true! Happy holidays, my friend! Cheers!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Andrew, I enjoyed your thoughts on readers and their expectations. I think the genre of the book is a good indication of how things will pan out with characters. Horror or paranormal usually indicates that things will go very wrong from characters. I write paranormal about ghosts so of course my characters must die and become ghosts. I don’t worry unduly about reader expectations. I am a little selfish with my writing and write to please myself and my vision. That is why I have not tried to query bigger publishers who want to control the writing process.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Yes, it is a tricky balance! In my second novel, the main character isn’t very likeable at the beginning, but as the story goes on it becomes clear what has moulded her hard nature – she grows as the narrative progresses and becomes much more easy to like and have empathy for with the ‘rooting for her’ taking over. However, a few readers took exception to her ‘bitchiness’ at the start of the novel and didn’t read on, even though I made it plain in the blurb that she was ‘hard and embittered’. This thing about having to have so likeable characters always feels a constraint to me. No-body is without flaws. I have read very trite books with very safe characters and they can feel shallow to me. So yes, it’s the writer’s right to create their characters however they want, but at the same time making them work, making them grow and learn – so hopefully the reader can enjoy the journey! Great post, Andrew!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. You are so right, I totally agree that a writer should have final say and not be pushed into paths they don’t want to take their writing. In the end, writers should write for themselves first and foremost.

    I’ve seen writers who seemed to fall to the pressure of some of their more vocal fan-base and end up pushing characters together that or changing direction, from how the story/series was going and it does not appear to happen naturally.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Pingback: Looking toward the Future | Andrew McDowell

  8. This is great. I watched a movie last week and a main character died unexpectantly. I was so angry. Why did he have to die? I want happy endings. Waaaaaaaaa. But the truth is the writer evoked emotions in us, we LOVED this person. They made us HAPPY and we were SAD and SHOCKED, ANGRY, HURT when they died. The writer did his job. Even if we dont like it. . It is what we as writers all set out to do.

    Good job

    Liked by 1 person

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