My sky is coiling with darkness and thunder. Sometimes these summer dramatics come to nothing, but I am hoping for rain. The garden needs it, my heart needs it.
Thank you to everyone who responded to my little survey. The results have been interesting ...
More than half the respondents would prefer to read a novel over any other form of literature, with short stories and non fiction each taking an equal part of the remaining chart. This wasn't surprising to me. I myself prefer to read novels, although I prefer to write short stories.
Just over half preferred a fairytale setting for a story, as opposed to only 4% wanting an imaginary world. This surprised me as the industry wisdom always used to be that people prefer imaginary worlds like Pern, Ombria, Earthsea, Middle Earth. I love them - I love drawing maps and building languages and cultures - infact, love doing this so much I seldom get past it to the actual writing of a story. (You should see my visual notes for Erland and Celanthwy from the Aftermark story!) About a quarter each wanted an historic setting and a modern one - which, for fantasy, translates as mythic fiction.
Half liked a gentle, dreamy style of writing - what I consider a McKillip style. 23% would rather have something thoughtful and sober, along the lines of modern literary fiction or a Bronte novel. The fact adventurous and engaging/humorous only got a small response is probably just reflective of this particular community, considering the popularity of writers like Terry Pratchett and Connie Willis and dozens of fantasy adventure authors.
I was surprised that almost half considered beautiful writing and setting to be the most important element of a story. Character relationships came a close second. Clever plotting was a distant third. No one cared about action. This was perhaps the most informative section for me as a writer.
Lastly, and predictably, the vast majority wanted to be heart-stirred by a story. Of the remaining options, a small number wanted to be made to think, and hardly anyone cared about being entertained and visually inspired.
When I consider the results as a whole, it seems clear that the readers who answered the poll want most of all to read something truthful. That doesn't mean something literally true; infact, there is a sense that people prefer transcendance of the ordinary, at least in tone. What it means rather is a story which captures some universal experience of the soul.
It seems hopeful to me that in these awful times people want beauty, depth, authenticity.
And now the rain is here, soaking my world with wild grey magic. I hope your day is magical too in its own way.
illustration hermann vogel