Understand Your Purpose

Have you ever found yourself reading a story that you’re really into, one where you just keep reading page after page, unable to put it down, and then all of a sudden something happens that completely pulls you out if it? It makes you yell “What?!” and not in a good way.

In most cases like these, the reason behind them is that the writer lacked a solid understanding of the purpose and direction of the story.

When I say purpose, I’m not just talking about concepts like plot and genre. Those are just a part of what makes up the purpose. The purpose is what your story is setting out to achieve.

Whether it be to make the reader laugh, to make them fall in love or to get them thinking deeply about a certain topic, understanding your purpose will help you figure out exactly what kind of moments you need to hit to create a satisfying story.

An epic fantasy adventure is going to flow differently from a buddy cop comedy because they’re trying to achieve different things. Because they serve different purposes.

Before you start writing your comic I want you to ask yourself: What do I want people to gain from reading my story?

I ask this because readers have a purpose too. Maybe they want to cry, maybe they want to be scared, maybe they want to be taken on a thrilling adventure.

By knowing your purpose, you’ll be able to determine the type of readers who will be most passionate about what your story has to offer.

Equally important, by understanding the purpose of your story, you won’t blindside your audience with a twist or plot point that they’ll hate.

Woah there, I haven’t even started writing and you’re already talking about my “readers”!

Yeah I know, your comic may still be a long way from completion, but it’s purpose is something you have to understand from the outset if you want to get it right.

Imagine watching a high intensity action movie where everything is going normally but in the final act of the movie, the action completely stops and it turns into a romantic drama. Or imagine watching the trailer for a supposedly gore-tastic horror movie but the actual movie plays out more like an episode of VeggieTales. It’s like setting up your audience for one movie but giving them another.

Of course, I’m sure some of you think those examples sound like awesome movies (myself included), but try to imagine all the viewers who would feel alienated because they were wanting to see one type of movie and got something else entirely.

That said, there are plenty of stories with shocking reversals that totally work, you just have to make sure you set them up properly (which requires you to understand your story’s ultimate purpose). Be very careful when attempting this kind of thing though because doing it wrong can be disastrous. After all, you’re lying to your audience about what they’re going to get. It’s the difference between a Game of Thrones shocker and a Shyamalan twist.

But wait, my book doesn’t have a purpose, it’s for everyone!

First off, it’s not your choice whether or not to have a purpose. Every story has a purpose. All you can do is choose what that purpose is. If you don’t clearly identify your purpose, you risk alienating your readers and will ultimately make your comic appeal to no one.

Secondly, there is absolutely no way that your story will appeal to every type of comic reader. This goes back to readers having a specific purpose as well. When marketing your story, you’re way better off targeting the audience that matches your specific purpose. Sure it may be a more narrow audience but it will be a far more passionate one. Those are the kinds of people who will share your story around and the people who will ultimately buy your book when it comes to market.

Every good story has a clear, attainable purpose, so what’s yours?