Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
Authors frequently discuss notions of originality and fulfilling reader expectations. I have read posts all over social media and on blogs, all with writers seeking to draft texts that pristine from anything else written under the sun and that will satisfy a mass of readers worthy of their artistry. Both are exercises in futility.
Defeatist? No. A powerful storyteller resolves to the realities that neither is their story completely untold nor will it enchant every pair of eyes (ears hearing, fingertips touching) gracing it. At the crux of any good story is the distinctive style and voice of the weaver of the tale, which is the primary way an author can create something that is theirs to share for people to connect with and respond.
There are no uninked topics, themes or plots. I write romance, a saturated subgenre (they all are) with conventions and tropes that wax and wane in popularity. Some common tropes include:
- Friends to Lovers
- Marriage of Convenience
- Second Chance at Love
- Secret Romance
- Enemies to Lovers
- Surprise Pregnancy
- Reunited Lovers
- Love Triangle
- Sexy Billionaire/Millionaire
- Falling for Your Best Friend’s Sibling
Voracious romance readers—including me—often seek out some tropes and avoid others. Authors will also write a romance trope and skip another based on their likes and dislikes. I love a surprise pregnancy or any pregnancy in romance, so a lot of my stories include them and issues surrounding them, including birth control, infertility, medical emergencies and postpartum sensuality. I’m sure there are books out there with similar topics included in their plots, but that’s not going to prevent me from writing them with my style and voice. I will continue writing about pregnancy and my other favorites: marriage/relationship of convenience, secret romance, and friends to lovers. I will be leaving enemies to lovers and sexy billionaires alone though. I know there are readers out there who want those tropes, but they aren’t stories I want to share.
Originality is a fallacy. Any author looking to be unique will hone their voice and style. It takes time, learning about how to best do it by reading good writing and a ton of rewrites. When it comes to establishing one’s author’s voice, the first book will hopefully be the worst. It is not that the book has to be bad. Even if an author’s premiere book is fabulous, the ideal is that subsequent stories will be better. Appreciating any writing pitfalls, learning how to avoid them, and sharpening where one’s writing is killing it will lead to establishing a name that readers will seek.
An author’s readership can be vast and full of people with a spectrum of subjective ideas about what they consider a good read. I have mentioned in other posts that it is impossible to satisfy every reader. Consequently, trying to frame a story based upon perceived readers’ expectations may lead to serious doubts about one’s writing as well as negatively impact stories.
Authors need confidence in their stories and share them, through a dialogue with readers along the lines of—I know you like to read, and I have this story I think you will like. Some readers may not feel the story, which is fine. Not everything is for everyone. Other readers will like what is written and want more. The next time the author’s name shows up under a title, they will click, not because the author gave them what they wanted but they wanted what the author had to give.
Some readers will be loyal to an author’s brand. They like what they read and look for the next book. It is the “taste” a reader develops for an author’s distinctive style that drives support and increases the ability for an author to publish the next story. The story won’t be original, but the way the author spins it will be.