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Note: I started writing this post last week, and then this week I happened upon this Huffington Post article that is strikingly similar. To show that this was planned weeks ago, please read the two posts that come before this one! The Author + Entrepreneur and The Author + Entrepreneur: The Product

Fiction is a work of art of the mind. An author simply imagines, creates, and fills the page with words. The content is all made up, granted it’s often a synthesis and/or extrapolation of ideas and events the author has experienced, it’s still amazing that in the end the final product is a story that achieves something.

There are so many motivations that compel individuals to read fiction, but to validate the reasons people read fiction, we suggest that you read this 1986 essay by Robert Penn Warren, author of All the King’s Men, an individual we believe to be a credible source. In the piece he delves deeper into the specific reasons people read fiction. As a fiction writer, you should know the motivation that causes your audience to consume fiction. In marketing we call this consumer behavior. Consumer behavior is a blend of psychology, sociology, and economics that attempts to explain why a consumer purchases or does not purchase a certain product1. As an author+entrepreneur, this concept is also vital to understanding for knowing why someone purchases your book, because the purchaser and the consumer may not be one and the same.

Now that you’re in the mindset of thinking about your end consumer, I challenge you to go back to your adolescent years. Remember those book reports teachers required of us? Book reports were validation to the teacher that you actually read the work in question by noting specific elements of the work.

When you’re writing imagine that every reader is going to write a book report on your work. That being said, be mindful of the things they will be looking for that are the vital components to the story.

Title:

  • What does the title say about the book?
  • Does it capture attention?
  • Does it allude to something that happens in the story?
  • Does it allude to something else readers may be familiar with that strikes a chord?

Genre:

  • What genre are you writing?
  • Are you mixing and crossing?
  • If you step into one genre are you alienating fans of another?
  • Do you want to appeal to a large following of a genre, or do you want to appeal to a niche?

Setting:

  • When and where is my story set?
  • Do people get a real sense of place and time when they read my story?
  • Does the progression through time and the instances where the setting changes make sense?
  • Can my reader get a real sense of moving along with the story and notice the details I want them to notice?
  • Does my reader see the things I want him/her to see and hear the things I want him/her to hear?
  • Do the sensuous experiences I’m trying to convey fit with the scene I’m trying to portray?
  • Have I actually put my reader into this place?

Characters:

  • What are their names?
  • How old are they?
  • What is their backstory?
  • Are my main characters well developed and consistent?
  • Are these people my reader can identify with/relate to/love/hate?
  • If he/she does something in one part of the story is that consistent with what they do later on in the story?
  • When they talk is that really something the character would say?
  • Do my supporting characters add value or noise?

Conflict: “To put it bluntly: no conflict, no story.” According to the Warren essay this is the most important. So be sure to know your conflict well.

  • How does it get resolved, if it does?
  • Is it relatable?

Theme:

  • What is the subject or overall concept I am trying to write about and convey?

Message/Moral/Lesson:

  • Is there something specific I would like my readers to walk away with or am I leaving it open to interpretation and personal judgment?

 Plot:

  • What are the events and happenings that make up the story?

Now for the really subjective part. When a reader finishes a book, these are the questions they ask themselves that determine whether or not they will keep the conversation going, and as we’ve said before, word of mouth is the most effective form of marketing…

  •  Did I like or dislike this book? Why and what particular elements?

So now it’s time to make a feedback loop and go back to all of the individual elements that comprise the story and try to put yourself in the mindset of your reader/consumer.

Sources:

1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Consumer_behaviour

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