Something occurred to me recently. I was thinking about novels—successful novels, unsuccessful novels, classic novels nobody reads, cheap paperbacks everybody reads—and I was wondering…why do people like certain novels more than others? When a reader picks up a book with the intention of reading it, what are their expectations? What do they want?
Well, I’m sure it’s a little different for each reader and each novel—but not a lot different. When it all boils down, the reader wants a story. In the end, they don’t care a lot about your grammar, or your descriptive power, or your atmospheric development. They just care about you story—and maybe your characters.
What they really want is an emotional attachment, and ability to sympathize with the characters. Once you have those bonds established, you proceed to take those characters--your reader’s new--friends and comrades—through a labyrinth of fear, pain, sorrow, confusion, joy, thrill, love, and victory. If you do that—and don’t overuse dashes (or parentheses, like some people)—you will write a novel people will hunt down in bookstores, and search for on Amazon.
People want to be moved, above all, when it comes to art. The same is true for all art, really. With music, it’s the same. A pianist of great skill, with fluid artistry, and technical perfection, could play some monstrously complex Bach composition on a top-of-the-line instrument and everyone would know it was great. But a very mediocre singer singing some ridiculously easy folk song a little bit flat will get everyone to listen—if only they can bring out the audience’s emotions with their own raw intensity. This is what really matters to people.
Is this a bad thing? Not really. It’s a very natural thing, and for many people, it should be very encouraging. Readers couldn’t really care less if you’re perfect. They just want a story that they can grasp and feel. But as for me, I’m a perfectionist. I feel like I really do have to be perfect when it comes to creating art. And that’s okay too, just as long as you don’t forget the essence of it. You need to move your reader. That’s what they were looking for when they opened your book.