Dealing with Reader Expectations

#1

Today was the first time I realized what posting on Wattpad means for me and my writing process. I’ve been writing for fifteen years, but I’ve never posted any of my stories before. These last few days, every now and then I’ve been slightly regretting putting my stuff online. This has everything to do with the fact that I’m halfway writing part 4 of 5 of my book, and the anxiety that comes with the idea the ‘twist’ (for lack of a better word) and the ending are just around the corner, and what if the readers won’t like it ? What if it’s stupid? What if I can’t pull it off ? I just don’t want to disappoint those lovely readers who’ve been supporting me from the beginning.

I like putting my characters through some hardship. I’ve done it countless of times before, when no one was reading my stuff, and had no problems with it. Because I know where the story is going – my readers don’t have any reassurances of the sort. I’m having a hard time convincing myself to not throw out my carefully constructed plot and just write a happy ending right now, even though it wouldn’t do the story justice.

Also, sometime earlier this evening, a friend of mine told me she ships two of my characters who I absolutely didn’t intend for to be shipped. I know that’s something out of my hands, but still, I’m completely flabbergasted. How did this happen? It’s not bad, obviously, but it made me wonder if I unintentionally sent out signals I didn’t mean to send out, and if there are more people who ship this (in my eyes) strange combination of characters.

Obviously, you can’t please all your readers. And they might hate your ending, or the journey towards it. Still, this realization that my readers have expectations is giving me anxiety, and the anxiety is giving me writers block.

Any people on here who recognize my struggles? How do you guys deal with reader expectations?

3 Likes
#2

I’d say there are a few things to consider when ending a story.

  1. Is it foreshadowed? I won’t reveal any spoilers, but recently Game of Thrones has been under a lot of fire becuase the ending, so far, has been nothing that was expected, and was also poorly foreshadowed. I think with good enough foreshadowing, anything can be done for an ending
  2. Consider the tone of the story. Is it a tradgedy? A Fantasy? Is it a genre that has both happy and unhappy endings? Is it a genre that only has happy endings? Try not to stray too far from the genre norm, and if you do, make sure the tone from the beginning matches the end
  3. Don’t be afraid of the audience’s imagiation. Part of the fun with stories is that we ship characters that aren’t in together in canon, or we make up fantastical scenes that didn’t happen. That’s why fanfictoin exists. Most of this is just an audience really loving the lore and their imagination going wild
  4. Know the difference between imagination and expectation. This is a tough one, but there is a little bit of structure here. Imagination is what a reader will use, and still enjoy canon. Expectations are where the story led up to everything, and then the readers expect it to end in some way, shape, or form that is reasonable with whaths been presented. Like for Harry Potter. It would be nuts if this whole battle with Voldemort ended with him turning out to be the good guy and Dumbledore is actually the bad guy. But again! Remember what I said about foreshadowing? If you foreshadow that enough, it can work.
  5. Don’t try to subvert expectations. This is a growing trend with modern storytelling in visual medias. Everyone is trying to twist the plot up so much for shock value, that the viewer feels robbed, and even empty, at the end. Deliver on the build up you create. We all knew that Frodo was going to Mount Doom, and we all cheered when he threw it in. That technically didn’t subvert expectations at all, and yet it was IMMENSLEY satisfying. Imagine if he got there, and Mary or Pippin came in, and threw the ring in. It would ruin that build up. Sometimes, we want to see a story delivered.

So again, it all comes down to foreshadowing.

That being said, it sounds like you haven’t finished it yet. So what I encourage is to realize that you will still need to edit the novel. I say go foreward with what you have planned, and if the readers don’t like it, then don’t worry! It’s just the first draft, and it’s just Wattpad. You can use the reaction of the audience to gauge what worked and what didn’t.

BETA READERS: This is your golden ticket to exploring how the final product of your story will work. These people can actually answer what worked, what didn’t, and give ideas for how to change or make it better.

But again, as long as something is foreshadowed enough, anything can happen. It’s when it’s not foreshadowed, at all, that readers are jarred.

6 Likes
#3

I’m on my phone so I can’t write to much, but what it comes down it is: take everything with a grain of salt. Understand this is your story they are reading for free. The tale should be spun the way you want it to be. However, if something is mentioned and over or you say, “hey, that’s a good point” you might want to check it over. You can’t please everyone.

Beta readers are amazing, and WP is almost like having beta readers everywhere with their comments.

Readers have minds of their own. They can ship mostly anything and the writer could be surprised, lol.

3 Likes
#4

There’s some great advice here so I don’t think I can add anything else that hasn’t already been said.

I think for me, in my opinion, it’s important to not get caught up in the expectations of your readers. If you had something planned and it feels right, go for what you had planned. I can’t promise it will always bode well, but it may take the stress off of you.

I have to agree with Charlotte in the sense . Subverting expectations can do more harm than good. Take Game of Thrones for an example. I think because the show has done so much to subvert a few obvious expectations/conclusions, that GRRM is going to be under a lot of pressure to undo a lot of things D&D have done. Instead of HBO just doing the thing, they’re always trying to surprise show watchers with twists, many of which may not even fall in line with a character’s motivations.

At the end of the day, we want our readers to be happy, but I don’t think I’d get too upset if there’s a couple they’re shipping outside of the canon I have planned. In my case, I’ve purposely teased a few ships but I’m sticking with my original endgame because what I have planned with make it right. I don’t want to read comments from readers and let them get to me too much. I appreciate their advice, but I also don’t want a Julie Plec/The Vampire Diaries moment either where fans threaten to boycott my things if -insert ship- doesn’t get together. Sometimes you have to stick with your guns. It is impossible to make every single reader happy.

I hope all of this made sense too.

3 Likes
#5

Thanks! You’ve said some thing that really put things in perspective.

Concerning the foreshadowing, (spoilers for my book) it’s not as much the ending I’m worried about, it’s the last few chapters of part four. My main couple will be letting each other go, due to a series of dramatic events and a misunderstanding. Part five will take place two years later, when they meet again. It all seemed great when I was planning the story, but now I’m getting afraid the readers might hate me for splitting them up for such a long time. Even if, in my opinion, it’s the right thing to do.
So yeah, it’s a romance, and they are getting their happy ending. It’ll just take some time.
I actually even foreshadowed that they were going to spend some time apart. It’s just not been very obvious.

That is completely true. Thanks for reminding me. If it turns out the ending doesn’t work, I can always write a new one. I’m a bit of a perfectionist sometimes…

1 Like
#6

Thanks for reminding me! This was actually my attitude when I started out, but I seem to have lost it somewhere along the way…

2 Likes
#7

It definitely made sense, thanks!

You’re absolutely right. I still feel this is the best way to wrap up the book, so I guess I just have to go for it.
By the way, I’m not in any way subverting expectations, just… delaying gratification? People will definitely get the ending they expect – I’m writing a romance, so it’s almost mandatory – but the road towards it might be different than they had in mind.

I’m going to keep this in mind. I wasn’t considering changing the ships because this one reader sees it differently than I do – more so because I get nauseous even thinking of those two characters together – it just really amazed me someone can get something from my story I was actively trying to avoid. I know it happens all the time, it’s just different when it concerns your own story :slight_smile: .

#8

Oh I struggle. Like I know when I’m writing a chapter that is not that exciting but is crucial to the story, and I worry it’s not interesting enough. And it’s even worse when I notice a drop in readers.

I write the entire book before posting on Wattpad, but because of feedback and the readers expectations. I keep rewriting and modifying it too keep the readers intrigued. This is actually working for me. My story is much better then when I first posted it on Wattpad. I rewrote my ending to make everyone happier and I love it soo soo much more. I can’t wait to post it.

At the end of day yes you want a story you can be proud but you also wants something people enjoy reading.

1 Like
#9

Sometimes book readers put me in the mind of anime fans. Like I’ve sat down to watch anime streams with friends and people will ship a thing and you’ll wonder how?!? Two characters can breathe on each other in passing and you’ll have someone who ‘ships’ it and will list 100 reasons why it should be canon. So when it comes to people and what they ship, I completely ignore it. Because I know people can ship a paper bag with a broom if you give them enough to work with :joy:

Nothing wrong with delaying gratification. Romance novels expect a certain thing, but you don’t have to walk the straight and narrow to get there. I’m certainly not!

1 Like
#10

I admire you for even being brave enough to look at the numbers. I just ignore those :joy:

I’m really glad the feedback has worked out for you. That’s something I’m going to keep in mind, that you can actually rewrite your ending if it doesn’t work. Guess I’m forgetting readers don’t expect us to be perfect.

1 Like
#11

Yeah I probably shouldn’t, my emotions are tightly wound with them. If they surge I get a high, if they drop get moppy and depressed all day. lol. But I love data…I can’t resist.

1 Like
#12

:joy: I love this quote. I think you should try writing it!
But you’re right. I’ve shipped some weird stuff in my teen years as well. And the ship I was talking about is definitely not on the level of paper bag with a broom.

True, true! Guess I’m afraid some people will think it’s taking too long, but if that’ll be the case, I can always do a rewrite.

3 Likes