Tuesday, 1 November 2011

What Do Readers Want? by Nancy Brophy

What Do Readers Want? 

by Nancy Brophy

Comma’s are the bane of my existence. No matter whether I’m putting them in or leaving them out, I’m wrong. I’ve come to accept this when my friends ask, “Have you considered buying a book on punctuation?”

Comments abound on writer’s loops about the horror of Indie-pubbed authors not putting out perfect books. Even if you, like I, have someone edit for errors they still turn up. Frankly, formatting was invented by the devil. But the question isn’t about the formatting of the book. No one writing a critique praises perfect punctuation.

The real question is what do readers want?

They don’t want to trip over grammatical and punctuation errors. We all know that. No one is striving to write poorly. But readers for the most part aren’t reading to critique, they are reading because they want a good story.

More than anything else a reader wants to feel emotion. The stories we carry with us are the ones where the character resonated with us. Maybe it wasn’t the greatest story ever written, but we read it at exactly the right moment in our life. I read Little Women probably around the time I was nine or ten. For a long time, the story was my favorite going so far as to motivate me to become a writer. But I reread Little Women as an adult. What a preachy, self-serving novel. How could I have liked so much as a child? Because I loved Jo.

Our goal as writers is to evoke emotion in the reader. When we think of Scarlett O’Hara, Frodo Baggins, or Harry Potter we think of people we’ve helped overcome obstacles. Through identification with the characters, their fight is also our fight.

We, as writers, have to make their quest the best possible challenge. Your character has to face insurmountable odds and be willing to give everything. If the character holds back, the reader’s participation will skid to a halt.

In Titanic, the heroine leapt from the lifeboat onto the sinking ship to save the hero. This resonated with young girls. The heroine gave her all. Older women in the audience, many of whom could author a book, called, “What I Did for Love” may have thought the heroine was a fool, but we weren’t the ones who saw the movie fifteen times.

The reader must connect with the characters on page one. And this is craft - the heart of a good story. Because evoking emotion is not through angst, but though technique. Give your characters a quest they can’t refuse with a ticking time bomb in the background. Show me the story, don’t tell it to me. Make your setting work. Who can’t picture Tara, or Mordor or Hogswart? Utilize the five senses to draw me in.

I am reader as well as a writer. I, too, want a good story. In Hell On The Heart, Czigany Romney is perfectly happy. Yes, she’d have liked to have graduated high school, perhaps even attended college and become a CSI rather than working for her father and Uncle as an asthmatic sidekick. But leaving Armadillo Creek would be impossible. A gypsy without family would be like a ship without a rudder - directionless, unable to function.

Agent John Stillwater's scarred face reflects the life of man dedicated to protecting his country. Currently his team is dealing with a nationwide white slavery ring, but lack evidence to prove it. An unusual set of circumstances in a nowhere town in Texas leads John to investigate. Can a petite gypsy woman bring down a man the FBI can't find?

I would love to hear your comments.

Author Bio

Nancy Brophy grew up reading and writing.
Her imaginary friends have rich, larger-than-life lives with definite beginnings, snappy middles, and above all, happy endings. Her personal life is never as clearly defined. Beginnings are hard to locate. A new job, a school term, a family event like a death or wedding might signal the start of something new, but it’s never heralded with any fanfare. It appears as just another link in the chain.
She lives in the beautiful, green and very wet Northwest with her husband, two naughty dogs, PB and J, and forty rowdy chickens.
Like all marriages they’ve had their ups and downs, more good times than bad. Most recently they spent fourteen nail-biting months living in an apartment while their house was rebuilt from a house-fire in 2010. In the process she have acquired an in-depth knowledge of kitchen cabinets, bathroom plumbing fixtures and leaking roofs. If this writing thing doesn’t work out, she plans to investigate becoming a contractor who specializes in on-time, under-budget remodels. There is a fortune to be made by the builder who can deliver on his promises.

Her stories are about pretty men and strong women, about families that don’t always work and about the joy of finding love and the difficulty of making it stay.



  1. Hi Nancy. Commas are the bane of both editors and writers. Depending on which grammar you book you read, their use is variable. As long as they don't get in the way of the story, I'm fine with writer style.

    Your book, Hell on the Heart, sounds interesting. I'll have to download it.

  2. Hi, thanks for stopping by my blog.
    I am now following you back and looking forward to reading more book reviews!



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