Saturday, November 21, 2009

Giving the Reader What They Want--by Elizabeth Spann Craig

Alexander Deineka---Young woman-- 1934

I was putting my daughter to bed the other night and she said, “I want to stay with you forever!”

Of course I told her she was sweet, and continued tucking her in. But she held onto my hand and said, “I really, really do, Mama. Can’t I always live here, even when I’m a grown-up?”

I smiled at her and gave her a hug. “I know you think that now. But you’ll be a teenager and won’t want to spend as much time with Mama. And then you’ll grow up and want to have a family and a house of your own.”

I kissed her goodnight.

The next night was a determined repeat of the last. “Can’t I always live here with you, Mama?”

I opened my mouth to give The Truth of the Matter, Part II, when it finally occurred to me that that was not the ending she wanted to hear. I wasn’t giving her what she wanted. She was going to keep trying for the alternate, better ending.

“You can always live here. Even when you’re a grown-up. You’ll always have a home here with Daddy and me, if you want it.”

Big smile and she was happily off to sleep.

Critics and movie goers frequently like different things. Critics see movies all the time and are bored stiff by formulaic movies. Movie goers are frequently happy with comfortable familiarity. Critics wouldn’t mind some really tragic endings to films. Movie goers are less tolerant of unhappy endings.

Are readers really any different?

What does a reader want? Frequently:

Unambiguous endings

Tied up sub-plots

No cliff-hanging endings

And….for many readers….happy endings.

I’ll admit that I try to plug into what readers want. I really want to make a career of this writing gig. I get emails from readers and read what readers have to say in comments on book blogs. I’m taking it all in. For me, satisfying a reader is priority #1. If I’ve satisfied readers, my editor is usually pretty happy, too.


Lynette Hall Hampton said...

Oh, Elizabeth your conversation with your little girl made me remember when I had almost the same one with my daughter when she was small. You also reminded me why I like some books better than others. When I get the ending I want, I tend to read that author's work again. When I don't, I usually mark that writer off my list. Thanks for posting this.

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Thanks, Lynette!

I'm the same way. Life's so tough anyway...I'd like reading to be a fun escape!