Friday, August 3, 2018

Understanding Your Readers

I'm a little late posting today because I've been doing some catch-up reading. The Passive Guy posted excerpts from a Wall Street Journal article that triggered an insight:

Perhaps, for many readers, it does not make much difference whether a story is told in print on a page or images on a screen. The narrative itself is what matters. In fact, the Great American Read list confirms that there is a great hunger in our culture for grand, mythic narratives. The adoration of the Harry Potter books, like the nearly scriptural status of the Star Wars movies, involves more than just fandom. These are comprehensive universes, complete with their own laws and histories, heroes and villains, morals and meanings. They serve the purpose that was once served by epic poems like “The Iliad” or “The Odyssey,” or even by biblical stories: They dramatize the spiritual truths and longings that shape our world.
People will argue and wail and gnash their teeth (as some the comments on TPV show) of the main points of the article. But it was the highlighted one that made me understand why the Justice universe resonates with readers. Why more people comment on it. Why people want more stories.

All my other series are firmly rooted in contemporary society. The Justice universe takes our world as it was in the 6th century B.C.E. and twists it through an unimaginable conflict to become a nearly unrecognizable. But I try to make it firmly rooted in the (to me) natural progression of politics, economics, and technology if certain major factors are skewed a different way or if they never happened.

I'm not trying to compare my stories to Homer, J.R.R. Tolkien, or even George R.R. Martin. But I think readers do want a fictional world that's a little bigger in scope to escape to with all the craziness in the real world these days.

And there's not a damn thing wrong with that. I know I need a little quiet in another time and another place. I've been reading quite a bit of Gail Carriger and Jonathan Moeller the last couple of months. But now I know what some of my readers want and more importantly why they want it.


  1. Yep, makes sense to me. [nod] That explains (at least some of) the appeal of grand-scope SFF in general, not just in light of current events.


    1. Someone wrote a paper (I wish I could remember to link to it) comparing the current superhero explosion with the Greek myths. The writer made a lot of good points about any culture needing a standard of ethics/morality/behavior to aspire to.