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Dealing with Audience's expectations

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Over the years I gained small audience and I love them. My last work quite disappoint them in regard of one character and I feel bad about it. I felt like character's struggle she went through would drastically change her. It was likable character with portion of naivety and big heart. Problem is, she is not like that anymore. Because of traumatic experience in climax she is a mentally unstable self-destructive woman with severe entitlement issues, because her great sacrifice was for nothing, she lost all and it broke her (She perceive her change as she was blind, but her eyes are open now).She is soon to be villain in story - it was foreshadowed.

To be honest, I love her arc despite audience hating the development, it is my beloved (and one of the best I made) character and I have big plans with her new grey-morality vigilante revenge attitude. But I am torn by opinion of my audience who really expressed themselves like "Why did you do that! We want her back! She had such amazing relationship with Hero. Redemption arc ASAP!". Yet, this was exactly my goal - I wanted to break her and create villain which you can feel with and understand her new goals. Instead, the result was disappointment about taking away beloved side-kick.

How do I deal with it? I am simply torn between what I want and what my audience want. I feel responsible for their satisfaction, but staying true to my writing is what makes my writing mine.

If it is too opinion based, just lock it - I will delete it

Why should this post be closed?

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2 answers

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Audiences want contradictory things. They want to fall in love with a character, and once they fall in love with them, they don't want anything bad to happen to the person they love.

But, of course, they also want excitement, adventure, peril, and woe, or else they will get bored because nothing is happening in the story.

Your job, as an author, then, is to hurt the one that the reader loves. And so you are always on the cusp of the reader hating you.

When we talk about the necessity for tension in a story, this is where most of that tension comes from. It is the same fear a parent feels when they see their child undertake some perilous achievement: riding a bike, going away to college, taking a vacation with friends. They want the pleasure that will come with seeing the child succeed, and their heart clenches at the possibility of seeing their child hurt.

There is something in us that craves that feeling of anxious hope, and for that fix we turn to stories. Your job, as an author, is to keep the reader poised in that ecstatic moment between anxiety and hope. You can expect them to complain bitterly if you betray either their anxiety or their hope.

Equally, though, you can't let the story or the characters stand still. Anxiety decays quickly, so to keep the needle in the green zone, you have to keep feeding in new causes for anxiety, and similarly meting out hope to maintain the balance.

In this case, it sounds like you overcooked the dish. You added too much anxiety and not enough hope and the readers crashed out of the bliss zone.

So you need to find a way to restore the balance while continuing to up the ante. One way to do that might be by foreshadowing her fall. This will have the effect of buffering the anxiety, spreading out its effect over a longer period so that the reader does not crash out of the green zone when the defection happens. Or it might come from providing a countervailing hope.

Or you might have to find new readers with darker tastes. The green zone is not in the same place in every reader's heart.

1 comment

I think you hit the nail. I did the change too fast and with neglected foreshadowing. I am really inclining to what one of the reader suggested and do redemption arc, returning the character to "good-side" but more matured as a result of her transformation and pretend the redemption was all planned haha. T Prahara 19 days ago

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Once I heard someone said that there's no such thing as bad publicity. I think it could as well relate to your situation there: you have a great character to begin with and a vocal audience that "wants her back". In my opinion, that's a win.

Her turn to a darker self is effective because your audience loved as she was before, thus there is dramatic tension between past and present. No mistake done there - you can go give yourself a pat on the back.

Regarding the future of your story, you should do as you want. Having close-knitted, small audience is great, but you shouldn't get caught in a feedback loop. Writing is up to you. Audiences are entitled to their interpretations (and of course, opinions) on a story, but they won't write for you; trying to please them might as well be like chasing rainbows.

Write the arc you want to write and makes the most sense in your mind. If you do a good job they might disagree, but they'll follow along.

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