As a freelance editor, I find myself increasingly asking clients, “What is your intent for writing this book? What is it that you want to say and what do you want your main character to be like at the end?”
For some books, it’s obvious. But I’ve edited a lot of them for which I was unsure of the intent. Enough to make me realize how important it is and how often it’s not been thought through.
Though there are many areas where intent is something to address, such as target audience or fitting into a niche market, I want to concentrate on two that I think are most important in the writing of the story. As a writer, I know that I want to answer these two questions for every story I write:
- What is my intent for my main character?
- What is my intent for my reader?
The main character travels on a journey through books and stories, whether it is physical or emotional. In order to make this journey meaningful, the writer needs to be aware of who his character is at the beginning of the book and who he wants him/her to be at the end of the book. Will he be more confident, empathetic, learn a lesson, make amends for mistakes?
Create a picture of your character in your head; write it down in a notebook or on note cards or in Word or Scrivener…whatever works for you. The most important thing is to understand and maintain focus on the end goal for your characters and to make sure you fulfill that goal.
The other concern is that you know what you want your reader to take away from your story. Clarify this in your head and keep asking yourself, “Am I giving my reader what I planned? Is it enough to keep him reading?”
J. K. Rowling supposedly wrote the ending to the Harry Potter books long before the first one was published. She knew where she wanted to take the story.
When you are thinking about your intent for the reader, these should be the most important goals:
- To keep the reader engaged in the story.
- To make the reader care about your character and about your character’s journey or goals.
- To deliver on promises you make. (Solve the mystery, resolve the love triangle, etc.)
Because it’s always about the reader. Without readers, we have no audience for our work. We must make sure we are writing with the intent to satisfy the reader and to give him or her a story worth reading and characters to whom he/she can relate.
Are you writing with intent?