A Few Gift Ideas for Your Readers

You forgot, didn’t you?

In the adrenaline rush that is Black Friday and Cyber Monday, you actually forgot to get a very special person a present. Sure, you found your brother in-law that vacuum he wanted at a discount. Mom’s getting that gorgeous plant holder she keeps hinting at. You even remembered the nephews and their strange new obsession with dinosaurs.

But you forgot to get a present for us—your readers.

(Live footage of your expectant readers)

It’s a shame, too, because there were some great specials going on likeable sidekicks the other day. Don’t worry, though. I’ve got you. Sometimes it’s just so much easier if you work from a wish list. So if you feel like you’re going to be scrambling for a last minute gift, please feel free to peruse the following. Keep in mind that we don’t need all of these presents, but it doesn’t hurt to throw a few into your current story.

Here’s a starting kit wish list for your readers this holiday season:

  1. Crisp, one-liner chapter endings that force us to push bedtime back by another hour.
  2. A pet or magical creature that we kind of love more than the main character.
  3. Give us a few relationships that are actually worth shipping. Make us swoon.
  4. Misunderstood characters who are doing the right thing despite all the accusations.
  5. First paragraphs that set our feet back down in the setting with a few concrete details.
  6. Just this once—since it’s the holidays—we’re going to let their favorite characters live.
  7. Don’t worry, we’ll kill them off in the sequel.
  8. Give us at least one moment in the story where we step back in wonder.
  9. And then give us one moment where we step back in horror.
  10. Rumor has it that betrayals from an unexpected source are popular again this year.
  11. Give us our favorite clichés. We want our guilty pleasure gift-wrapped in new packaging. We’ll open it up and pretend we didn’t get it (and love it) last year.
  12. Rotating antagonists. Imagine three circles around your character. First circle is the immediate threat. Second circle is surprise friends and enemies. Lastly, the overarching bad guy. Rotate these through as often as possible.
  13. But every now and again, set conflict aside. Let us enjoy a scene where the characters eat really good cake or play cards. A brief pause that makes the coming storm all the more dark.
  14. Readers—especially the dedicated ones—are having a hard time keeping the characters straight. We read so much, you see. Let’s double-check those character names. If you have eight characters that start with the letter L, it might be time to hit the baby-naming websites.
  15. Hope. Our world is daunting enough at times. We need a moment or two to believe that it can all get better—and that we can get better too.
  16. Realistic flaws for every character.
  17. Platonic relationships that get as much screentime as romantic ones.
  18. Dragons. Everyone wants more dragons.
  19. Dedicated readers have requested a few winks here and there. It doesn’t have to be too obvious, but a line or two that’s a nod to our favorite movies and books. A reminder that you’re just as nerdy as we are.
  20. Take one thing we’re always seeing in stories and use it against us. Be the party-trick magician you were born to be—flash some bright ribbons in your right hand so that we don’t see what’s going on in your left. And at the exact moment where we start nodding our heads—because we think we know where it’s going—hit us with the real trick.

I hope these help. Oh, and don’t bother including the receipts in the box. We’re your readers, after all, and these are the presents we asked for this year. They’re the presents we never get tired of unwrapping when we find them in brilliant stories. So you can just focus on getting that story done. We’ll be the little kids waiting to ohh and ahh over all the presents we get to open along the way.



5 Responses to A Few Gift Ideas for Your Readers

  1. Claire Gem Nov 28 2018 at 8:23 am #

    I’m going to print this out, frame it, and hang it over my writing desk. This list rocks! Thank you, Scott!

    • Scott Nov 28 2018 at 11:38 am #

      Thanks so much, Claire! Hope you find it useful now and in the future!

  2. Marc Vun Kannon Nov 28 2018 at 10:32 am #

    How about no villains at all? In my books everybody, bad guys and good, are caught up in some situation that is the real villain of the story. So beating the bad guy doesn’t solve the problem.
    I almost never kill off my characters, but when I do, the other characters mourn them.

    • Scott Nov 28 2018 at 11:40 am #

      I like the idea of having a situation as the villain. Not a bad way to think about it either. And the antagonists mentioned don’t exactly have to be “villains” per se. They can just be normal people who get in the way of the protagonist, or have different goals.

  3. Julie Eshbaugh Nov 28 2018 at 1:14 pm #

    Great post Scott! So much good advice!

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