What fictional characters reveal about the readers who love them

A few months ago, I completed the exercise of defining my target audience.  The summary of the results: my readers are mostly women who still believe in true love, despite knowing Cinderella probably lost her half of the kingdom in the divorce after Prince Charming
cheated on her. When I posted this to my blog, I received quite a few responses from my readers who heartily agreed!  It was a truly fascinating discovery for me, because I learned something important in this process.  I learned there was a direct connection between my characters and my readers, and this was why my readers loved my books.

After this exercise, I realized how much fictional characters reveal about the rabid fans that love them.  I’ve read a few articles where people criticized the lead female characters created by Stephanie Myers (Twilight series) and Amanda Hocking (Trylle Trilogy), because the characters seem to have no definable motivations or personalities.  I tend to believe Ms. Myers and Ms. Hocking are speaking the same language as their shared audience, which consists of young women who are just forming who they are and what life beyond themselves is like.  It’s a rather scary time of life.  They’re learning as they go and
not sure what to expect, just as the characters in Ms. Myers and Ms. Hockings books are.  Readers are given the ability to explore a new world and convey their own characteristics, personalities, fears and fantasies onto characters like Bella in a way where they won’t be judged or discouraged.

Meanwhile, my readers are probably a bit more jaded and beat-up by Life.  They cheered when Sofi (from “Damian’s Oracle”) was kidnapped, when she put her foot down and refused to take more, and when she ultimately was rewarded by falling in love with a man who truly appreciated her.  My readers also cheered when Rhyn(“Katie’s Hope,” Rhyn Trilogy)  – a self-loathing half-demon surrounded by people who feared or hated him – finally overcame his self-doubt to realize he was worthy of being loved and respected, and that he did have something positive to offer the world.

My books feature characters who definitely aren’t given an easy lot in life but who find the personal courage to hope for something better and to persevere.  As Rhyn says, “Sometimes life is full of bad choices, but you still have to choose.”  This message reverberated with my target audience, because my readers have wrestled with Life – and not always ended up with the hand of cards they expected.

I can picture my readers and characters sitting together at the local café, commiserating
over their life challenges, heartache and loss then getting back together in six months to share their tales of redemption, hope, and triumph.  Good fictional characters speak to readers.  As an author, I create something for them to talk about, but it is the readers who will choose whether or not to invite those characters out for a cup of coffee.

I originally wrote this as a guest post for the Cocktails and Books blog.

13 thoughts on “What fictional characters reveal about the readers who love them

  1. I don’t drink coffee as I’ve stated before but I would gladly invite most of the characters to Tea or for a hot chocolate ^_^ But that would only be AFTER having one with you first ^_^
    Still can’t wait for March to get here for Rhyn’s Redemption *flails*

  2. I thought this was very interesting. Thanks for expanding my horizons! I tend to learn something new everytime I come to this blog and it’s not always about books or the internet!

  3. Nicely written.
    I would also add that one person’s Prince Charming may not be for everyone. The notion that Prince Charming must be tall, dark and handsome is lame. A true Prince Charming is not about looks but instead about someone who truly meets the needs of the other person.
    I don’t like to read books to where the Prince Charming in the story is a cliche. I like the leading man to be a real man with real flaws. Maybe Prince Charming is short, bald and brilliant but most importantly totally devoted and loyal.

    And Yes Lizzy that is definitely one of the things I like about your books.
    Rhyn, Dusty and Damian are not perfect Prince Charming personalities; they are just men who happen to be perfect for their mates.

    • Yes! You’re 100% on the mark. I try to portray the nuances of people in my books, mainly because I’m trying to convey what I know about people after years of studying them! Resiliency, emotional depth, imperfections that really end up being strengths … books are like mini-studies of people. 🙂 What I admire (and um, don’t admire) about people come out in books, and one of the things I really don’t admire is the cultural ideal that there’s one type of perfect ‘beautiful’ when in truth, there are as many types of ‘beautiful’ as there are people. It’s fun being a writer. 🙂

  4. Lizzy, I love your thought process here on your characters and your target audience. We have mostly different audiences I believe, but I’m always glad to hear what other writers have to say on the subject.

    • I know you secretly read trashy romance novels, Ty. Hahaha! 🙂

      I think the most important thing is to have some sort of basic understanding of who you’re writing for. I wouldn’t ever dare say these are the only people in my audience, because I’ve had people from all walks of life email/contact me, but it’s kind of neat to get an idea. I’ve read where that’s an important factor to know when you start out, but I tend to think the opposite was better for me. I wrote what I FELT, and then the books attracted the type of audience who would click with them. Not sure which way is best, but I think as long as we’re aware of our audiendces as writers, we’re going to be successful at reaching them!

  5. Pingback: Different heroes « Loose Leaf Stories

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