Touch Your Readers’ Deepest Needs

Mary Keeley

Last week my husband brought home a movie he thought I would enjoy.  Gene Shalit called the movie “unforgettable.” We settled in to enjoy this “passionate and heartwarming story,” but not even the impressive cast could overcome the disappointment we experienced by the end because the story was devoid of confident hope.

The back cover copy touts that as two daughters care for their dying mother, “they come to their own reading_2682818bunderstanding about the power of the past and the unbreakable bonds between mothers and daughters, family, and the loves of their lives.” However, through a series of flashbacks viewers learn that the mother’s past was filled with regrets. The daughters first learned about their mother’s past only now as she converses with strange names in her sleep. The mother spoke of two unhappy marriages, neither of which involved the real love of her life, with whom she’d spent only one weekend. The movie was over when the mother finally died. The end.

Granted there was passion, but I didn’t observe “heartwarming,” much less anything resembling eternal hope. Since this film, Evening, was character driven, the effects of a God-less worldview on a person’s values and choices were starkly obvious. As a Christ follower the overwhelming emotions I felt as a result of watching this film were profound emptiness and sadness, followed by my reaction of resounding recommitment to encourage writers to touch your readers’ deepest needs.

We know God won’t allow the Christian message to be completely muzzled, discredited by worldly wisdom, or depleted by fewer Christian publishing options. You who have been gifted by God to write are an honored group. What a privilege you have to communicate the Christian worldview to your audience. You get to breathe true joy, hope, and inspiration into their lives through what your write. This is perhaps the most important motivator for developing your author-reader relationships. The question is what is the best way to present it, and the answer will be different depending on what you write, your readers, and their demographics.

A good place to begin is by understanding the age group you are targeting. Post-Millennials, Millennials, Gen-Y, Gen-X, Baby Boomers, and the Silent Generation each have unique interests and perspectives on life. Learn as much as you can about your reader group’s deepest felt needs and address them through select characters’ journeys in your novel or in the way you approach your nonfiction book. Here are a few suggestions for your research:

  • Read online articles about your age group’s characteristics.
  • Read a non-fiction book by a popular author in your target audience.
  • Visit websites of groups within your target audience.
  • Interview people who are typical examples of your audience.
  • Conduct a survey of your social media followers or newsletter subscribers.

Imagine how lives similar to the mother and daughters in the film could be different as a result of discovering true hope through your book. I want to inspire you today to keep on keeping on. You have a holy purpose, Christian writers. Pray for insight as you begin each day.

The main thing is to write with purpose . . . “making the best use of the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:16 ESV).  Let’s all—writers, agents, and everyone in Christian publishing—commit to pray for each other to accomplish this greater purpose in our work.

Have you seen a movie or read a book that left you feeling the same way I did after viewing the film, Evening? How have you been encouraged today? What methods have you used to understand your readers?

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