Category Archives: reading

How to Figure Out What a Reader Wants in a Story or Book

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What writer wouldn’t love sitting inside a reader’s head as they read a book, whether it is the writer’s or another’s? I would relish knowing what thoughts occur to a reader as they progress through the novel. Are the characters intriguing or boring? Are there too many characters or too few? Is the setting over described or too vague? Should the plot be pimped to make it more interesting or is it already all over the place? Where does the reader fit into the writing of a novel?

Unfortunately, we can’t sit inside a reader’s brain. But we can ask readers what they like and don’t when they read. And we can tell via sales whether a book lives up to a reader’s expectations. But while being written, is there some way a writer can try to zero-in on ways a reader reads?

After giving this some thought and investigation, I came up with the following list:

  1. According to reader desires, a good novel contains these elements, in this order:

Story-must be interesting

Characters-must have dimension

Theme-must be current

Atmosphere/setting-must seem genuine to story and genre

  1. Characters are the reason readers read. If the characters are boring or flat a reader will put the book down and pick up another with interesting, intriguing characters.

The main character must want something specific. Strong desire of a goal defines a strong character.

The main character must do something within the story. If all of the plot situations ‘happen’ to the character a reader gets bored. Sometimes the character must instigate the situation.

  1. Humor helps any story and readers love it. You don’t have to create a comedy, just insert some humor, especially where it’s not expected.
  1. Lastly, style is not nearly as important to a reader as it might be to a writer. The days of ‘purple prose’ are gone. Today’s readers want quickly flowing story with little narration and less description. Don’t eliminate either completely, just be judicious.
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Red Room Assignment: Favorite Novel

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The assignment for this week’s Red Room Blog was to write about my favorite novel. It’s so hard for me to select one favorite novel. I have so many that have touched my life and my writing it would be impossible to choose one.

The Lord of the Ring series has influenced me through my love of dragons and mythical creatures, world and language creation as well as how people treat one another. My current WIP series is heavily influenced by JRR Tolkien’s vision.

Then there’s The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck which I read as a teen. Scenes from that book have haunted me since. I learned so much about Chinese culture and history from that book. I’ve even adopted a Vietnamese child.

1984 by George Orwell is one I’ve read several times over the decades. It is timeless and meaningful in any society at any given moment. I love its dark nature and the struggle for freedoms that we take for granted; the right to love whomever we choose, the right to READ.

Along those same lines I love The Giver by Lois Lowry. Again it is dark with spears of light and warmth. The reader grows along with the main character and you find yourself crying, rejoicing or mourning whenever he does. Few stories have moved me the way that one did.

And of course I adore ALL of the Harry Potter books. The characters are lovable, quirky, fun to read about and the darkness of the story is heavily punctuated with light-hearted moments. I only wish my own writing could be as universally read and my characters as universally loved.

So, as you can see, there is NO way I could select ONE favorite novel. I could actually keep listing stories that have touched my life and writing, but I won’t bore you. Discover your own list by reading, reading, reading. Discover other worlds to visit and meet new friends in books. You can check out my Dragons in the Dark  Volume I: Threshold on this blog or at Between the Dark and the Light.