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Reader Predictions & Expectations


BKWildenberg

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Good Morning all! 

I recently came across a few YouTube video essays that talked about storytelling and reader expectations. To summarize, it illustrated the “challenge” authors/show runners had when audience communities started creating fan theories and correctly predicting upcoming plot points. The general reaction from these folks was negative, with a lot of effort made to “subvert the expectations” and be unexpected. This ultimately lead to changing a number of in-flight storylines, perhaps at the expense of character development or the overall plot. 

(You’re probably not surprised to learn that these essays were about Game of Thrones and mess of the last few seasons!)

Since I’ve started writing on GA again, I’ve been fortunate enough to gain a lovely group of dedicated readers who’ve followed the story since the beginning.  Writing in a serial format naturally leads to readers predicting what will happen next. In some cases, these predictions have been pretty on the nose, and sometimes reflect exactly where I have planned to go from the beginning. 

Personally, I have been finding all of this to be absolutely DELIGHTFUL. The notion that are folks not only reading, but picking up on specific ideas or hints and correctly guessing feels like a positive thing. Throughout this journey, there’s never really been that knee-jerk reaction to change things up just because someone already predicted it. Perhaps because I’m working off a lengthy draft and already have a general idea of where I need/want to go? 

So writers, what are your feelings on reader predictions? Does it ever impact your storyline or future chapters? Let me know! 

 

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3 minutes ago, Mikiesboy said:

No .. .i only post finished works. It's fun to read reader's ideas .. but i dont change my story.

This is pretty much the place I’m coming from as well. If I were truly writing in a serial format, maybe it would have more of an impact. But I don’t think I could write a very compelling story if I didn’t have some sort of plan. (I know some authors who are pretty good at it, though!) 

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8 minutes ago, BKWildenberg said:

So writers, what are your feelings on reader predictions? Does it ever impact your storyline or future chapters? Let me know! 

I love it when readers speculate and make predictions on what they think will happen in the story.  Sometimes I want to deliberately plant red herrings and lead the readers into an unsuspected direction, where other times it's more obvious where the story is going.  I don't let reader predictions impact my future chapters or the storyline.  The story will have already either been plotted out or completed by the time I post it.  

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I am not an author and never pretended to be one. I enjoy trying to figure out where an author is going,  enjoy the surprise if I am totally off base, and get a kick out of occasionally being right.

 

That said, I have worked with an author or two who did change a story line based on readers comments. It has frequently created continuity issues that were tough to reconcile. I often told one writer that the only peeps he needed to please was himself and his characters. Sometimes they have specific ideas where their story should go.

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I think it's awesome when a reader accurately predicts where the story is going, and I wouldn't change anything for that reason. I have done the opposite, kind of. With an unfinished WIP, a reader suggested a romantic connection between two characters that I hadn't planned. However, reading back, I discovered that I had inadvertently set it up and it fit the story really well, especially as I wanted that character to have more of an arc of her own. So I put it in the story. In general, though, I don't see it as my job to please or to thwart readers. I tell a story, they read it.

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16 minutes ago, Kitt said:

That said, I have worked with an author or two who did change a story line based on readers comments. It has frequently created continuity issues that were tough to reconcile. I often told one writer that the only peeps he needed to please was himself and his characters. Sometimes they have specific ideas where their story should go.

I have enough trouble trying not to contradict MYSELF when I write... I don’t think I could successfully write around what others were anticipating. 

5 minutes ago, Thorn Wilde said:

I think it's awesome when a reader accurately predicts where the story is going, and I wouldn't change anything for that reason. I have done the opposite, kind of. With an unfinished WIP, a reader suggested a romantic connection between two characters that I hadn't planned. However, reading back, I discovered that I had inadvertently set it up and it fit the story really well, especially as I wanted that character to have more of an arc of her own. So I put it in the story. In general, though, I don't see it as my job to please or to thwart readers. I tell a story, they read it.

Readers have definitely noticed EARLIER than I expected. But then it was all there in the writing. So that’s neat! 

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I think there are two sides to predictions, but here I'm talking about serialised stories that have not been written, not completed works being published daily or weekly for which comments are also fantastic, but the novel is written so cannot be affected and changed.

Reader discussion including predictions in chapter comments can be awesome. What is less awesome is the reader who attempts to direct the story. Suggestions and ideas, speculation are welcome, less so "this should happen next" directions.

For the author you might want to pick up run with some points made by readers you think are good, but not to the extent of changing your story. Readers comments can always add to a story, but I wouldn't change it to accommodate other points of view or simply because someone guessed or worked out correctly what happens next.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I don't put the pressure of having my story accurately predicted later in posting or in the middle to closing chapters. It is already a lot of work to write a story from beginning to end, to have outside voices dictate what you do or when you do it, kind of makes them co-writers/pilots and they're no longer readers. When I go to write, I may read comments and say, "heyyy, that's very interesting," and add something to my writing, but I would never do something major like change important plots etc. just because my readers seem to know where I am going. If anything, their predictions are a testament to me and my writing, part of our jobs are to lead them to the end with our story telling in a way, for them to get the full plan/picture of what we the writers wanted to create and/or share. 

On the flip-side if you're barely past posting the opening chapters and readers already know the ending, you may want to re-think your writing as you've probably given away way too much information and you will not likely hold their attention as the story progresses. 

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