Friday, June 16, 2006

What Readers Want

Every author wants to know what readers want to read. While we must follow the guidelines of a particular publishing house in order to have our books picked for coveted store shelf space, what we want more than anything is for readers to find our stories to be satisfying reads. As an inspirational author this can be a particular struggle. How do we balance what we want to write with what we're told readers want to read?

I've been asking myself this question for three years. Today, I received my answer in a surprising rush of emails that began in the wee hours of the morning and continued until early this afternoon. One after another, readers responded to my books. One in particular offered such a concise outline of her thoughts on inspirational romance that I asked her permission to post it here. I'll paste it below. Please forgive me for removing one sentence, S.

Thank you for your book, When Silence Falls. My mother gets Love Inspired books regularly and passes them on to me sometimes....I enjoyed your book so much I had to tell you. I appreciate that you can portray Christians as having more realistic lives. I could not recommend a book to a non-Christian that portrays Christians as less than human, so super-spiritual that they seem to float above the bills, relationships, and difficulties of life on earth. Our values, integrity, and faith are constantly under fire. Christians are not sappy, but strong in the knowledge that we have access to wisdom, strength, guidance, confidence, and love beyond ourselves. I wish we always accessed it perfectly, but we don't. Pretending that we do is dishonest. Sometimes we get overwhelmed, tired, angry, fearful, and confused, but if we are obedient, we go to God and to other Christians for the help we need to be successful. I liked that the character of Wayne had a past that made people who loved him still wary of the propensity for weakness. I liked that you didn't immediately have Cade, as a professional, act unprofessionally, with a lot of romantic references (even in his thinking} blurring the ethical responsibility he had, though he had a prior childhood relationship with Piper. Of course, you know the boy gets the girl before you pick up the's inspirational romance! I do hope you will write more in your subtle, engaging style. Thank you. S in Oklahoma

Thank you, S. You've expressed beautifully what I hear from so many readers - - give us real stories about real people who have real struggles.

I'll leave you all with this thought - if inspirational fiction does not reflect the truth of life - both its beauty and harshness - it can't ever touch the hearts and souls of those reading it.

1 comment:

Sabrina L. Fox said...

We have to be careful with Christian fiction. If we make our characters these cookie-cutter type people who are nothing more than good little christians who maybe gossip to much or get depressed over finances, then readers will be bored. We have to have real life drama in our stories.

Life is full of drama and sin and all kinds of things that people have to overcome. We have to reflect that in our writing.

For example, I have a story with a character who is struggling with alcoholism. She is to say the least a little hard to be around. A friend of mine read the book but was surprised at some slang I used for her. She said she'd never heard me talk like that before. I said that's because it's not me, it's my character.

I want her to be real to life. I couldn't have an alcoholic say things like "Well, I'm sorry that upsets you." It just wouldn't work. Anyway, I'm rambling...good post, Shirlee.