You can’t please everyone all the time. We’ve all heard that. Well, you can’t please everyone at the same time, either.
What makes you laugh does not make everyone else laugh. What makes you weep does not make everyone else weep.
So who do you write for?
I write for myself, first and foremost. If I am not moved, if I do not care about what I am writing, if I am not passionate about it—I am not putting it out there. If I did send it out, chances are far fewer readers would be moved, and chances are, criticism would cripple me, because I’d know in my heart I didn’t do the best that I could. Because I’d know that it didn’t please me...so why should please anyone else?
I’d know that they were right about everything they said. That it isn’t just differing opinions, perhaps. I’d be saying to myself, oh yes, this entire story is a mess! The characters suck! There’s no feeling in this story!
I feel that if you write a scene which makes you weep so that you can’t see the words you’re writing—so that you have to stop to wash your face, take several deep breaths and calm down before you can even continue—then chances are more of your readers will weep with you when they read that scene.
If you scare the crap out of yourself writing a spine-chiller so that you keep looking over your shoulder, lock the doors and turn on all the lights, chances are more of your readers will be doing the same thing when they read it.
If you love your characters (or at least like them in some way), chances are more of your readers will, too. If you love your characters, chances are more likely they’ll be vivid and three dimensional, because you love them enough to know them well...or should I say you know them well enough to write them in a compelling manner. This goes the same for hating a character. If you hate him, you can likely make your reader hate him, too—which is great unless that’s not your goal, of course!
You notice I say that more readers will feel what you feel, not all. You will never have all of them. I repeat: you will never have all of them. Know this, never forget this, I say, if you want to retain some of your sanity. Remember, you cannot please everyone, nor should you try, as in that way lies insanity.
Do the best you can do. Write it how you see it. If you do the best you can, are as happy as a writer ever can be with what they’ve written, criticism won’t hurt you as much—only as much as you allow it to. Because if nothing else, you can look in the mirror and say, “I did the best I could by this story. I like my story. I’m proud of it.”
Of course, you might be more defensive of those characters that you love, but that’s only human. They’re real to you, so you're defending your pals. I understand. That’s passion.
They are real. That’s the point (at least for me). If they’re real to you, then hate them or love them, they’ll be more real to the readers either way.
But what about writing for an audience, you say. I’ve heard this as well, but for the most part, I disagree with this. Doesn’t this mean trying to please everyone? At the very least, everyone in your target audience, if you know who your target audience is?
Everyone? Oh my, no thank you. That would be a frustrating, never ending project, I think, likely to end up a big ole mess. Writing to please everyone, why, that’s impossible, and you end up with thousands of would be authors, because you’re listening to all of the audience’s suggestions, some quite contradictory.
And can you truly predict the trends? Do you know what will be popular in several months or even years, time?
Even if you know who that audience is and know it well, there will always be those who dislike what you’ve done.
So, really, we’re back to writing for ourselves. I believe that even if you’re passionate about writing in general, not necessarily a certain character or plot, it can make a difference in the reading—and really, what’s the point of spending hours and days and weeks writing something, if you aren’t passionate about it? Oh yes, we live for the moment someone tells us that they loved the story, the characters, surely we do. Because that means someone felt what we felt when we wrote it, if even a little! We connected.
But even if your story never reaches the masses, I hope that at the very least, you, the writer, love it.
You’ll always have that. No one can take that away from you—which means, neither can the critics, if it does reach the masses.
Only you can give that away.