That got me to thinking about audience. Today's audience would want that same Moby Dick story jam packed with excitement and adventure. Life threatening peril at every turn of the page. And why is that? Because we live fairly safe and mundane lives.
This is not to say that everyone is looking for same thing. Some people live in loveless marriages, or comfortable ones where steamy romance is a thing of the past. Others find that their jobs and day to day activities lack a certain heartfelt emotion or bond with a good friend every Tuesday.
Of course there are sub-genres within those audience groups. Some more erotic, others more fantastical. The question is, who is your market? And more importantly, what is missing in the lives of those people?
In copywriting there is the concept of the great elixir. Few things sell better than those that promise to cure a problem. Not even protection sells as well as elixirs. How many people do you know run out and get a house alarm after they've been robbed. We're a country looking for cures, not preventions.
That led me to think: what cure is today's reader looking for? In every case it's escapism of one form or another. Heck, even Moby Dick is escapism. But what specific things are your readers looking to escape from?
Now, I know that there are a lot of fluffy bunnies out there that would rage against the notion of doing research before writing a book. They can't stand the idea of outside pressures impacting their artistic process. Fine by me. Don't sell a book. See if I care. Makes more room for me to slip in there. But if you do want to sell a book you're going to keep this in mind.
I also know that this topic has been talked about by many others many times before, “know your audience,” is a common how to theme. But that's not what I'm asking you to do. I'm asking you to figure out what your audience needs to be cured of? What is their sickness, their affliction? And then tackle it from that point of view.
Are they an angsty teenager with low self-esteem who really just wants a knight (read: stalkerish vampire) in to die for clothing to come and literally sweep them off of their feet while still respecting their desire to take things slow? Maybe they're a bit younger, a bit nerdier, other kids pick on them, but if only they could reveal to the world that greatness they hold inside that not even they are aware of, then they'd show them. Or, perhaps they're all grown up. They work in a dead end job, are about to be married to a loveless prude, and would love to have an excuse to go on a real adventure. Maybe a girl shows up, one who can open doors that lead to an underground world that this person always knew had to be there, filled with assassins, hunters, and crazed Angels.
So I guess, in all my rambling, I've redefined the question. It's not, “what is the cure?” The cure is escapism. The real question is, “what is your reader trying to escape from?” But look at it in terms of a cure. You're not simply writing a story, you're writing a cure.
I can actually point out where the last photo came from, and that's Head Trip comics, a web comic where the art is fantastic. Check it!