Pleasing Yourself or Pleasing Readers


A question came in that I want to address. It’s a great one:

“Are you writing to please yourself or your readers?”

This is an easy question with a long answer. The short answer? Writing to please myself. The long answer is this:

I’m a firm believer in that writing to please YOURSELF, will ultimately lead to you pleasing a readership. Time and time again, I have seen authors who have written in a commercial fashion that just don’t seem… satisfied. You can see it in their person, and you can see it in the work.

When I sit down to write, I think about the things that I want to see and the things that I want to experience. I believe at one point in time, Stephen King gave an interview in which he said that when he was looking for inspiration and drive for his horror stories, he wrote about things that personally scared him. I liked that a whole lot, because it shows. Stephen King writes about some pretty messed up stuff, but it seems that much more immediate and visceral.

There is no substitute for genuine emotion. You ever notice when you watch a television program that has a canned laugh track, and it just doesn’t seem as funny? It’s because you’re being given a laugh prompt, someone is telling you “This is supposed to be funny, you should laugh.” And yet, I find myself almost NEVER laughing based on a laugh track. More often than not, I end up laughing at something completely different. Someone is telling you how to react to input, as opposed to you deciding for yourself.

With writing, you don’t HAVE to tell someone “This is a scary part. You should be SCARED.” I don’t think it works that way. If you’ve written it correctly, you won’t ever have to guide a reader down that path. They’ll get their on their own. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve stayed up WAY past my bed-time, continuing to flip through pages of a book I simply can’t put down, and scared as all hell.

The novella that we’re working on right now has a scene very early on that is, for lack of a better term, very brutal. It is gross, freaks me right out. We took this section and passed it onto our Test Reader: The feedback was AMAZING. They were freaked out in exactly the right way, and we were quite happy with the results. This reader has been given pieces here and there of the current work, and they’re craving for more and more. That is how I know that we are doing our job right, simply because this person is excited for the story, they want to see where it is headed, they want to know if there’s going to be more shock scenes, the whole nine yards. They are CRAVING MORE.  We’re completely pleased as punch.

But I don’t think we could have gotten there if we were writing a story we weren’t interested in reading in the first place. Readers are far more savvy than many people want to give them credit for. If you write, write well, and passionately, your readership will share that passion with you. Don’t ever be in a position of, “Here’s a thing I made.” You don’t want to be dull about your work. It is your baby, your project! Be EXCITED about it, and for it. When you believe in the strength of your own narrative, it will rub off on them in a great way.

-Oliver

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