I had the fortune of coming across a most interesting TED Talk the other night. It was about finding your purpose in life, and it got me thinking about writing theory and understanding the purpose of one’s book.
Today’s article is mainly intended for writers of fiction.
The speaker in the TED talk, Adam Leipzig, offered his listeners five key questions that they must answer to discover their life’s purpose.
Now I will assume if you are studying the craft of writing that you already have a strong sense of what your purpose in life is, but I’ve provided the talk below in case you are interested. It’s quite thought provoking.
Having been afflicted with blinking cursor syndrome of late, my mind quickly turned to how to apply these questions to help us craft stories that people want to read. So, let’s convert Mr. Leipzig’s five questions into something that will help you ferret out the meaning and purpose in not only your book but also your career.
Who Are You?
By this question I’m not asking who you are but rather who you are as a writer.
I believe it is vitally important to preserve a non-public part of yourself. It is critical to understand your personality as an author, which may be very different from your true personality, and to create a line between your real life and “fictional” life. Your author persona should match the type of stories that you write.
Creative people who are successful market themselves long before they ever market their product. Because of this, I routinely advise authors that the first character they create for public consumption shouldn’t be in their book.
What Are You Good At?
I touched on this in the article I wrote last week, Author Know Thyself. Pinpoint what you are good at writing, not necessarily what you want to be good at writing, and write that. When an author becomes comfortable with themselves and their talent, that’s when the magic really happens.
Who Do You Write For?
Okay, this is a two-fold answer. It’s a given that you write for yourself, but who else do you write for? Define that audience. Learn everything about them and their desires.
Your readership is not only your support and your customer, they are your partners. Strange as it sounds, you are in a relationship with them. And as in any relationship, problems arise when one partner stops meeting the needs of the other—or doesn’t understand their partner’s needs in the first place.
What Do Your Readers Want From Your Book?
If you want to be a successful author, dedicate yourself to giving your readers what they want and give it to them in every book. This is how you define your brand and your niche.
I’ve found when books go wrong it comes down to one thing that expresses itself in a variety of ways: it is when an author focuses on themselves and their desires instead of what the story and the readers need.
What Will Your Readership Take Away From Your Story?
Every story has a purpose. It can be overt or subtle. It can be something as simple as providing entertainment and joy or as complicated as a challenging one’s worldview. Before you can weave a theme or life lesson into a story, you have to understand what you want to say.
When you have a clear picture of your author persona and understand what you are good at, who your audience is and what they expect, you can combine it with the message that burns in your heart and create something wonderful.
Now get writing! 🙂