Furry Writers' Guild Forum

How do you want to affect readers?

A couple of friends had a conversation after my critique group met last week about how they want their stories to affect readers. One writer tried to describe how a piece of music had affected him – that was the effect he was going for. Another writer said he wanted his stories to leave an echo, to be the kind of story that stays with a reader all day after they finish it. Then there was talk about how to move a reader to tears.

I thought it was an interesting discussion. There are all sorts of different ways that fiction can affect readers, and listening to my friends talk, it became clear that different writers can have very different goals. I’m not generally trying to move a reader to tears. Or haunt them with echoes. Overall, I’d rather that my fiction… made people feel less alone while they’re reading it. I’d like the characters to feel like friends. I guess, I’m hoping to give readers an escape. Though, of course, that can vary from story to story.

Anyway, I’m curious as to how other furry writers want their stories to affect readers.


Different stories have different goals and tones. But to me there’s nothing worse than a beta read that doesn’t come back with someone describing the emotional reaction they’ve been put through. That’s the sign of a weak, tepid story.

“From Winter’s Ashes”, I want to plunge my reader into the protagonist’s grief and despair and be inspired by her unrelenting determination despite her loss. I want people to be rooting, as they flip the pages, whispering fervently under their breath: “Get up, Heather. Get up.”

Other stories, like “Propero”, I wanted people to have creeping dread climb up their spine as they realized the incredible depths of the wrong done to the protagonist, and just why the justice wrought would be as terrible in scope in the wrong done to him.

But I go for positive emotional arcs too: “The Years of Living Dangerously Happy” is the story of a poly relationship breaking up, and it’s a happy ending, because the relationship ending is the right thing for the people inside it. There’s no villains. No antagonists. Just three people who love each other very much, who have to say goodbye the right way, on their terms, in a way that reaffirms their love and value they have for each other. It manages to be both wrenchingly bittersweet romance story and erotica too.

All in all, I don’t want to just write someone’s idea of a “tepid, pleasant read”. I want to write the stories that kick down the doors of heads and hearts, stories that wrench off the armor people build around their souls, and let in truth and beauty and terror and every other emotion worth savoring.

And I want my stories to be controversial. Not in the pat “Let’s argue over something.” way, but in the “This story is powerful enough to make me feel like I need to talk to other people about it, what it made me think and feel.”

I want my readers to be entertained and to have an enjoyable time.

Yes, there may be things in there that I want them to think about, or try to have them experience through the story, but those are secondary really.

I want to move people.
I’ve discovered that I’m quite ok if I’ve upset people with my stories.
For my purposes, I count that as movement.

Depends on the story. For my horror stories, I want to know I scared my reader sufficiently. Not just jump scares, but the sort of dread that makes them pause to turn the light off at night. But for all my stories, I just want to know they felt something, that they put down my story and were moved. If they were, I have done my job as a storyteller.

Regardless of what genre I am writing, I want the reader to consider carefully what they read. Much of what I have written or plan to write depend so much on the circumstances surrounding the story, plot, and characters. I like playing with perceptions and things like unreliable narrators. Not only do I want the reader to enjoy the story, but I want them to take some deeper experience from it.

One of my core writing principles-- and while I share this willingly with others I’m not asking anyone else to subscribe to or agree with it; it’s strictly meant for my own creative guidance-- is that the purpose of art is to evoke emotion. This absolutely includes the literary flavor of art.

Ask a reader to describe the last book of fiction they read, and carefully note the kind of words they tend to use to describe it. While a few factual terms might be thrown in-- it was long, it was short, it had a red cover-- for the most part the language used will be emotive. It bored me, it was gripping, I found it exciting, I loved it. It was sad, it was happy, it was so exciting I couldn’t put it down. It engaged me, it repulsed me, it fascinated me, it offended me. All of these, one way or another, describe an emotional state/reaction to the experience.

I believe that people read fiction in order to have their emotions stimulated via imaginary experiences. Certainly, it’s why I read fiction. So long as I properly ‘telegraph’ what emotions to expect-- it’s no good repulsing someone with splash horror who’s seeking to be excited by action-adventure or titillated by romance-- then the intensity of the emotions evoked, above all other stylistic and craftsmanship issues, will tend to be the reader’s measure of the author’s success. Create a sufficiently evocative work, and you will be forgiven anything. (Yes, style and craftsmanship are important. But they’re important becasue they tend to help the author evoke the all-important emotion, not in and of themselves. This is how a ‘crappy’ book can become wildly successful-- it evokes Joe and Jane Reader’s emotions despite being poorly crafted.)

Which emotion I evoke is relatively unimportant to me; what matters is that I be emotive and remain emotive (within a logically-consistent pattern and framework, of course). Oftentimes in a longer work I’ll seek out more than one emotion-- I particularly love to inject humor in places it doesn’t “belong”. But so long as the reader is emoting, I’m betting that not only is he or she unlikely to give up on my book incomplete…

…but that they’ll feel I’ve given them fair value for their time and/or money as well.

I want to make people laugh; ideally out loud. I’d like there to be a quirky sentence or phrase that sticks with the reader and makes them smile. But I’d also love readers to get fond enough of the characters that they really care how the story turns out, and maybe even wonder about how those characters’ lives continue after the end of the story.

I think this is a really interesting and important point.

…this is probably why I like your writing so much.

I want to change the way my readers see the world. I’m interested in ideas, and creative writing can be a very effective way to communicate them. Humor helps, too. (For example, rather than simply state an opinion on second person writing, I went with a creative demonstration via a forum post.)

I feel this way about reading, too. If a story leaves me with no new ideas or perspectives, I feel cheated.

:smiley: Glad it’s working for one person, at least!

Echoing Rabbit’s thoughts, I want to evoke strong emotion. As horrible as it is to put this way, there’s little higher compliment than being told your work moved someone to tears, whether of sadness or joy. I always hope I can make you laugh in the right places, cringe in the right places, and maybe most of all, feel about the characters the way I feel about them. (Well, at least a little. I’m probably more in love with my characters than anyone else ever will be, but that’s what I’m trying to get across.)

I want someone to finish a story and think wow, that was really good.

Can I just say all of the above? :slight_smile: All in all, though, I think Chipotle’s answer above matches what I’m going for. The emotions can vary from scene to scene and story to story, but I do want to make the reader feel something.

I also know, though, what it’s like to use fiction as an escape and a comfort and even a source of strength, so if I happen to provide that sometimes as well, then I can’t really ask for anything more. I think I have a lot less control over that aspect, though, since that depends more on the alchemy of the right reader and the right story at just the right time. That’s more serendipity than craft.

A mix of what everyone’s said here. I want to entertain, I want to move them, I want to make them emotional. Regardless of which one it is, I want the work to live beyond the moment it is read. I want the reader to think about it when they’re not reading it, or leave some impression that they take forward with them.

More than anything I want to take my readers on an adventure. I want to take them someplace new, and to allow them to experience a whole new world from their armchair.

I’d like to present the reader with something new, original or different. I enjoy writing plots with twists. If I can generate an aura of mystery around the right details such that my readers don’t expect the reveal, then I feel a sense of success.

This is of course in addition to many of the other things said.

So many things already said that apply to me X3 So I’ll keep it short.

I just want my readers to walk away from the story not feeling like it was a waste of time. Whether that’s because the story made them stop and think and view things from a different angle, or was an adventure that they enjoyed for the sake of enjoying, so long as they feel fulfilled by the time the last word is read.