What to write about?

A new (or “between stories”) writer may wonder what to write about….and it would be too easy for me to say: “Whatever you like…..” Something that is interesting and/or entertaining to you goes without saying, but it’s more than that. Ideally, something that you are passionate about in some way or something that drives you to want to know more about it. Such motivation will also serve you well on those days when you really don’t want to write. They’re going to happen…. Either way, most good fiction is going to require at least some research, whether we enjoy the pouring over reference books and/or web pages or not. This is largely because as much as emotion and tension to find out what happens next keeps the reader turning the pages, at some point or another some facts need to be presented either as a basis for the story or to be later challenged before the end of the book.

While writing has more paradoxes than rules that are made to be broken, one must consider one’s audience at some point or another. There is an old saying– you can’t please everybody. Even if we could….the work to do so would require more effort than the copy is worth. Either we research (or pick) a select group of readers or (more commonly) we write what we want to write and then go find an audience to present to. Either way works, to each his own. That said, if we are writing science fiction to a church group or (worse) writing of gray-area heroes that swear like a truck driver to little school kids it’s not going to work. One of the biggest factors to consider is the age group of your target audience. Typically speaking….young adults read (and purchase) more copy than old farts. More importantly, they both have different interests and tastes. Write a story about teen age love and give it to an octogenarian and they will likely throw it in the trash before the end of the first page. Write a story about a hero fighting back aches, blurred vision, rising drug costs, and Medicare D and the teenager might throw the book back at you. It’s a matter of reader preference and audience.

Back to passion and interest….one must also consider how it relates to the story. For example, if you wanted to try comic book style fantasy or science fiction and you also have a love for crochet, the villain whipping out a pair of knitting needles as his final attack isn’t going to be understood (let alone believable). Now a villain– especially a like-able one– who just happened to use crochet to relax would make more sense. Another consideration is the setting of the story. As a precaution, “period” pieces have a limited audience the further back in history you go. Want to write about the life and times of the 1980’s? Sure. If you’re aspiring to write about the roaring 20’s, you’re going to have a very limited audience outside of (forced) college students as very few people remember that time, let alone relate to it. While you might find a smaller section of readers that like to read/learn about Roman times, this is going to be a hard sell not just because of market saturation as it is also somewhat of an acquired taste.

All in all, typically you can write about most anything– as long as there is enough conflict and interaction between the characters that drive towards a goal to keep the reader turning the page. The important thing to remember is that it is something that you want to write about– as much as we want to believe otherwise– books do not write themselves and no one has ever paid for a finished book that hasn’t been written yet.

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