Readers Have Goals Too – Satisfy Them

image by zimnijkot0
image by zimnijkot0

In Stephen James’s article, “Tension & Release” (Writer’s Digest – January 2015), he tells us: “Readers want to wonder, worry, anticipate, and hope.” To understand this better, I’ve tested these readers’ goals against the story of “Rapunzel” by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm.

For each turn in the story, here are the reasons I thought they satisfied readers’ wants.

Repunzel and Readers’ Wants

  1. A couple has long wished for a child, but to no avail.

Hope this situation will change.

  1. image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images
    image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images

    One day, from a window, the woman saw field salad called repunzel growing inside a nearby walled garden belonging to a feared sorceress. The woman longed so much for the repunzel that she became deathly ill.

Wonder how this new goal will affect her baby goal.

Worry. Getting field salad + sorceress’s garden = bad happenings.

  1. The woman’s husband, frightened his wife will die, climbs over the wall to obtain repunzel. 

Worry he’ll get caught.

  1. The husband safely delivers the repunzel to his wife. After she eats it, her desire for more is threefold what it was before. So her husband makes a second trip into the walled garden.

Anticipate he’ll surely get caught this time.

Worry what horrible thing will happen to him?

image by carol round
image by carolround
  1. The sorceress catches him. He begs mercy. She says he can have all the repunzel he wants, if he gives her their first child.

Wonder whether he’ll at least negotiate something better for the sake of his child.

  1. The husband agrees. The sorceress takes the child, names her Repunzel, and later puts her in a tower having only one high window. The sorceress visits the child by climbing Repunzel’s hair.

Worry this child will live forever by herself with nothing to do.

Hope someone will come and save her from such a life.

  1. Years later, a prince hears Repunzel singing and wants to join her, but there’s no door. Her singing touches him, and he comes everyday. Then, he sees the Sorceress climbing Repunzel’s hair.

Anticipate. He’ll be able to climb up to Repunzel, and they’ll fall in love.

  1. image by LouAnna
    image by LouAnna

    Repunzel slips up and mentions the prince to the sorceress.

Worry what the sorceress will do.

  1. The sorceress cuts off Repunzel’s long braid, ties it to a hook, and takes her away. Repunzel suffers greatly.

Wonder how the prince will find Repunzel.

  1. The next day when the prince climbs the braid, the sorceress is there and curses him. Overcome with grief, he survives falling to the ground, but is blinded by thorns and is miserable.

Wonder and worry that a happy ending won’t happen.

  1. Years later, he hears the princess singing, he sees her misery, they embrace, her tears heal his blindness, and so they live happily ever after.

I think satisfying readers’ wants to wonder, worry, anticipate, and hope is crucial for any size or type of story.

Satisfy these readers’ 4 goals and have them turning pages. Click to tweet.

Which, if any, of these readers’ wants caused you to stop reading a book? Why?

3 Elements Your Creative Work Needs to Stir Hope and Renewal

“Perhaps the greatest psychological, spiritual, and medical need that all people have is the need for hope.” — Billy Graham

Girl Holding Plant

When you hear a song, view a painting, or read a story don’t you want to be moved? Don’t you want your experience to be worthwhile—to understand a new truth about life or have one confirmed? Receive an ah-ha that changes your life for the better? Isn’t that part of the entertainment you expect?

Let’s look at the three elements a creative work must have to stir hope and renewal.

3 Elements to Stir Hope and Renewal

1. The Creative Work Must Give a Hint of a Basic Need.


In one of my mom’s paintings, a fisherman, dressed in a muted yellow rain slicker and boots, stands in a river, his fishing pole extended. The glassy water reflects a sunless sky. Gray stone buildings stand tall and sturdy on one bank. Down the river a brown bridge constructed of brick arches spans the river.

The possible needs hinted are:

  • Food source
  • Protection from the weather
  • Sturdy shelter
  • Rain for the earth
  • A way to cross the river
  • Solitude to renew one’s spirit

These needs draw me into the picture. I want to go inside the buildings and hope a fire blazes against the damp day. I hope and want to see the fisherman catch a fish to take home. I want to walk across the bridge and look down into the water.

2. The Creative Work Must Give Glimpses of Good and of Hope

In the story I’m writing, a young woman has put herself in a predicament because of her reaction to a deep hurt she’s experienced. Among all the obstacles and setbacks to overcome her mess, I show glimpses of how she can heal and become whole again, even if at some points she’s not ready yet to make the right choices.

Image courtesy of Zuzzuillo at
Image courtesy of Zuzzuillo at

The painting of the fisherman gives a glimpse he can provide food for his family. His slicker and boots keep him dry. He may be renewing his spirit in his solitude. God has provided rain for the nourishment of his surroundings.

3. The Creative Work Must Satisfy Within the Realm of Reality

The painting didn’t show the fisherman catching a fish, but we know it’s possible, and that’s satisfying. The day is overcast, but we know the earth needs rain and the sun will shine again.


A story may have an unhappy ending. But if the choices the main character makes shows the ending is the only one likely without a miracle, the ending can be satisfying to most people. Such a story may move readers to make better decisions or raise their children to make good choices.

Personally, I prefer a story that shows us how the character overcomes obstacles and gives us ways to improve others’ and our lives. For me, the overcoming includes a growing faith and trust in God.

A creative work can renew us when it shows a need, glimpses of what is good in relation to the need, and leaves us with a measure of realistic hope and renewal.

What have you seen in a creative work that was behind the hope and renewal you experienced?