Monday, March 1, 2010

what readers want...

so, according to Laura Miller in this article (and, yes, I am oversimplifying) readers want these five things from a book:

1. make your main character want something (check, phew);
2. make your main character do something (ok, presumably about what they want, eh?);
3. story, above all else (er, really, even above character and writing?? ok, yeah, yeah, I know...);
4  write well, but don't overwrite for "being writerly"'s sake (i so agree - a constant balance for me, especially in my women's fiction... i know this when I see it, and as much as I love beautiful writing, I wholeheartedly agree...) and,
5. be funny when you can (and snarky when you can't. ok, that was my addition).

what do you think?


  1. I want to kill everyone of those tadpoles at the top of your blog page. I am not kidding. I'm looking around my room for something I can do this with.

    If I take the lightblub out of my lamp and stick the business end into my computer screen, I think I can do it.

    Might be wrong. Oh well. Here goes.

  2. Interesting stuff! She doesn't specify that she's referring to adult readers but perhaps she is. I understand that character-driven novels tend to be more popular among children and even young adults.

  3. omg, that made me laugh OUT LOUD. Even the salmon one?

    they do look oddly like sperm.

    I so apologize for the fish. This was me attempting to use gadgets and make my page nice (you should see the one I built at Er.). I am waiting for my real website to be built. But it's a friend and he's being very slow. :(

  4. Thanks for sharing Gae. Good info. :)

  5. I like the fishies. I don't even know how to get things that move on my blog. :(

  6. I liked Laura's list. Thanks for passing it along. I copied it and filed it somewhere.

    I was thinking of applying her rules to her own blog post. I keep looking for the funny.

    What I think we should do, though, is come up with a list of five (at least) requirements for what writers want from a reader.

    Okay, communication and/or story doesn't exist until someone reads the words. But why is the onus on us to provide the reader with everything she/he demands in a book in order to finish it.

    Perhaps what we need are better readers. I mean, in short, this is a list of how to dummy down for the big wide world of grumpy "I'm not reading that unless it's written the way I want it to be" book borrowers.

    I find teen readers are a much finer group to share words with than all these adults who won't bend a little to learn a little.

    Or maybe I am plaigarizing my urologist.

    Oh, I know, let's do a list of the five things we demand in a urogolist or we'll stop going there. We'll get up after five minutes in the waiting room and walk out, because he is doing the lobby wrong.

    Maybe we just don't like the color of his carpet (i.e. book cover) and he better change it quick if he wants to be a rich and famous and much-loved urologist.

    P.S. When did the tadpole become fish? I thought they grew into frogs. Darwin? Darwin?

  7. um, Randy, you made my FB status.

    Scotti, thanks for the comment. Do you think? I would have thought it the other way... but let's hope you're right since The Pull of Gravity is character-driven fiction.

  8. Oh no, Gae! I just figured out what my main character wants. He wants to get out of my fking book and run away like the gingerbread cookie boy.

    He left a note saying he's off to find Jay Asher, that he wants to be in one of his books.

    If you see him, tell that disloyal little s.o.b. to come back here, would you? I was only kidding about killing everybody in Chapter Three. Geez.

    Let's do a list of 5 Things Writers Want in a Character? I'll post it at my blog.

    You know, some days it's like the whole Internet exists solely to tell me how to write a query (let alone a whole book). Have you noticed how everyone KNOWS exactly how to write a query, but me?

    Nathan Bransford originally titled his blog, "Let's Tell Randy How to Write a Query."

    But he had too many followers, so he cut back to more general topics on publishing and being an agent and whatnot. I wonder how that's working for him. He seems to have missed the point that the purpose of the Internet is to tell me how to write.

  9. well, if your goal is to keep me from revising today, you are succeeding.

    in a good way.

    if there is such a thing.

    and why the f*** do you need to write a query? The whole point about getting a book deal isn't for fame, fortune, or accolades. It's just to never have to write another query again.

    on a related note, my editor just asked me to write a jacket blurb. Have you noticed how similar jacket blurbs are to queries?

    on a side note, do you think any non-writers will think this exchange is funny?

  10. Let's just say that I would not say that a plot-driven novel is always the best choice for YA readers.

  11. OMG, I'm posting this!

    The whole point about getting a book deal isn't for fame, fortune, or accolades. It's just to never have to write another query again.


  12. Scotti Cohn, I agree with you. There is a whole style of successful YA that is "character internal." It enthralled me when I was a kid to read another person's thoughts and feelings. It requires lots of talent AND skill of a writer. Bit is is pure gold when it succeeds.

  13. Getting to submit jacket copy is a GIFT OUTRIGHT for an author, Gae! Take good advantage of the opportunity. :-)

    I don't know, though, if you mean "blurb" or flap copy or bio copy for the jacket.

    I tend to think of "blurb" as an endorsement from another author that appears on the jacket.

  14. I meant jacket copy. flap copy.

    I meant flap jacks.

    That last one. I'm hungry.

    (anyone wanna play jacks?)

  15. Randy,

    every time I look at the fish now, I crack up. Alone. Out loud. In my house.

    Thank you.

  16. Don't think Miller explained "story above all else" very well. I, for one, prefer character-driven vs. plot-driven. But in both cases, there's no substitute for quality writing.

  17. *dies* That Randy kid's a nut.

    (I mean that in a good way)

    I prefer character over plot if I'm forced to pick. Sadly, writers are too few to generate the necessary book sales. (and I really DO like both character AND plot if that's one of my options).

    I think we live in short attention span days though, so the publishing houses are looking for plot plot plot. At least that's what I think, since I've had trouble selling my book that bothers to introduce characters...

  18. Great info, Gae!

    LOL - Randy cracks me up!