You vs. Your Audience

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    Hello lovely people,

    So, recently I had a friend read through half a story I wrote. Her overall response to it was “well that was depressing.” Honestly, I’m alright with that, considering I was trying to represent a broken world. Broken worlds are depressing. Can’t really get around that.

    Except, now I’m torn. Part of me feels obligated to make the story more ‘cheery’ and make it more appealing to readers, while the other part wants to keep it just as it is since this the story I chose to tell, and who cares if it’s sad. Thing is, things get better at the end of the story. That’s when there’s finally hope. I’m just worried that readers won’t ever see that since they will give up on the story as “too depressing” before they ever reach the end.

    So, do I go with what I feel like writing? Be flexible for the sake of my readers? Somewhere in between?

    I’d love to hear you guys’ thoughts. 🙂


    First you have to ask yourself, “Why am I writing?” Don’t worry–there’s really no wrong answer to this question.

    If you’re writing to express yourself, to work through a tough idea you’ve been mulling over, to practice getting better at putting thoughts down on paper, then I’d say it doesn’t matter if your friend didn’t like your story. You didn’t write it for her. You wrote it for you.

    However, if you’re writing want others to enjoy what you’ve written and come back for more,  by all means you need to figure out what your potential readers like. This is called “finding your target audience.” It’s possible that in the process, you’ll find others who enjoy your brand of depressing, but don’t count on it. If you’re hoping to be published or self-published, you need to be writing what readers want to read.

    But of course there’s no rule that you can’t do both kinds of writing. Maybe it will be at different times or in different venues, or maybe you’ll find that sweet spot where what you love best to write and what readers love best to read happen to be one and the same…either way, happy writing!

    K.M. Small


    I’ve had this problem a bit, especially with a family member who reads my stories. I’m told they’re kinda depressing and heavy sometimes.

    I’ve found three things are important:

    1) Writing the stories we feel called to write. For instance, I have a really hard time writing children’s stories. I just enjoy asking really deep and difficult questions in my writing, especially in my novels. It’s just what I like doing, and if people don’t like that I don’t write much lighter stuff, then I’m probably not the best writer for them to read. And that’s okay. Everyone has different tastes.

    2) Being aware of why we’re writing stories the way we are. How much brokenness and depravity do I need to show in order to get my point across? What kind of story am I writing? Can I make the same point with less graphic descriptions or a less heavy mood? Darker stories aren’t necessarily more powerful stories. Like Zee was saying, finding your target audience is important, and so is making sure everything in your writing has a purpose.

    3) Adding some lighter moments to your stories. Having a really heavy mood for an entire story can be difficult, especially if it’s a novel (you can mostly get away with in a short story, though). While real life can be dark, people still laugh, still make jokes, still do awkward things. Having jokes in the wrong place can make things more morbid, but weaving in some bright patches to otherwise dark stories is always a good idea. It sounds like you already did that with your ending!

    I don’t know if you’ve read Flannery O’Connor, but I think she does a really good job with this. Her stories are pretty serious, and play around with a lot of satire and irony, but somehow she hooks you so much that you read to the end no matter how bizarre or seemingly depressing the story is.

    I hope that helps! It’s a great question 🙂

    ~ Khylie
    "Beauty will save the world." - Dostoevsky



    Thanks! It’s really helpful hearing others’ opinions on things like this. I think I will try a little harder to incorporate what I hear back from my readers, but remember that as the author, I have a say in it too.


    Oh my goodness yes! Difficult, deep, questions are my favorite things to write about just because there’s so much to them. So much to consider and so many points of view! But, yeah, I’m not so great at writing light-hearted bedtime stories. Like you said, different people, different tastes.

    Your other 2 points were also very helpful, thank you!


    I totally understand the desire to write stories that deal with real-life problems and issues–compelling stories that make people think, rather than “fluff.” However, there is already so much sadness and darkness in the world already, I don’t want to add to it, even in a tiny way. While my stories/books may have dark and unhappy scenes, I personally don’t want to write anything that I intend to share publicly that doesn’t leave my readers uplifted, with a sense of hope and joy, by the end. But that’s just a personal preference, by no means a rule for all writers.

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