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
- A couple has long wished for a child, but to no avail.
Hope this situation will change.
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.
- The woman’s husband, frightened his wife will die, climbs over the wall to obtain repunzel.
Worry he’ll get caught.
- 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?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Repunzel slips up and mentions the prince to the sorceress.
Worry what the sorceress will do.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?