Monday, June 29, 2009


By Ali Cross

A couple thoughts collided to bring you this post. First, I’ve been thinking a lot about how some writers tailor their work to suit the market. I’m talking about those writers who write outside of their genres just to meet market demand. Or who change their main character from a girl to a boy because they heard there were fewer strong male protagonists for middle grade readers, not because they wanted to write a story about a boy.

Secondly, I’ve been thinking about those times we try to manipulate our stories so they go in a direction that they clearly don’t want to go. I’m sure all of you can relate: There are times when you have an expectation from your story, you sit down to write it, only to discover your characters have something else in mind.

When a writer does either of these things, their story becomes less sincere and the reader knows it. What happens when a reader encounters such writing? Well, I’ll tell you what I think happens . . . the reader snaps the book closed and tosses it onto the floor.

As a writer, you have a responsibility to your readers. Lie to them, and they’ll know it. If you’re lucky, they’ll forgive you, but if you’re not so lucky, if you lie to them too often, they might never read your stuff again.

It’s important to be aware of market trends when writing your books, but you should never write in a genre you aren’t comfortable in. If your voice and story ideas are best suited to adult epic fantasy, but you’ve heard the trend is toward YA dystopian, don’t change your genre. You may be able to crank out something that’s publishable, but your heart won’t be in it, and eventually your readers will discover that about you. Guaranteed, at that point they’ll feel let down.

Similarly, if you try to make your characters behave in ways that are contrary to their nature, your story will be derailed—in feeling, if not in actuality. Your readers will begin to doubt what they’re reading and question everything they thought they knew before. No matter how the changes propel the story forward, if your character is not believable, your story might as well be dead.

Writing is a responsibility. In exchange for their hard-earned money and valuable time, you must be honest with your readers. They trust you to take them to another world, to let them escape reality for a little while. If you betray that trust, the reader will know, and they will not come back to you.

Be sincere in your writing. Be true to your heart, to your story and to your characters. Your readers will thank you for it!


L.T. Elliot said...

Wonderful post, Ali. As always.

Evelyn Curtis said...

Very good advice for me! I found myself nodding while I read. Thank you!

Keith Fisher said...

Agreed. but maybe thats why i've never sold a book . . . yet. I'm writing romance/women's fiction now, though, and I started out writing contempory adult fiction. But i was carried into it because of a plot and being bound and gagged by my characters. I made a deal with them . . . I write their story, and they turn me loose. Still it would be nice to sell this book.

great points