I Don’t Like Your Story

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What do you do when your friends or your editors don’t like your story?

This has indeed happened to me several times, the most recent on a current WIP. One of my reliable first readers has been hesitant to say much about this story and I realized that it’s because she doesn’t like it. The story is a tragedy and while I soften the blow at the end, it does end tragically. READER said that the ending was a “sharp left turn.” But for me, it’s a straight arrow right to the heart of the story.

What to do? Revise to please my reader, or keep it “my way”?

I would be a fool to ignore feedback! Of course, I need to know how others view my stories and where the communication breaks down. I will always revise to make sure I am communicating clearly. What is in my head needs to be clearly reproduced in the reader’s head through the medium of words. That’s communication through writing.

But that’s not the case here. Instead, there’s a gap in vision, or an honest difference in how another person view story and how a story should unfold. READER wanted a happy ending.

There are actually four ways a story can end:

  1. Happy/Happy. The protagonist gets what s/he wants and that makes him/her happy.
  2. Happy/Sad. The protagonist gets what s/he wants and that makes him/her sad.
  3. Sad/Happy. The protagonist fails to get what s/he wants, but in the end, that makes him/her happy.
  4. Sad/Sad. The protagonist fails to get what s/he wants and that makes him/her sad.

My story is the third kind. The protagonist does not get what she wants, but in the end, her goals are accomplished in a different way and she is content and peaceful about it all. I actually think this is a more realistic ending, more true to life. How many times do you get what you want, exactly how you want it? Not often! Yet much of literature is the Happy/Happy kind of ending. That’s great: I do those endings most of the time, too. But this ending satisfies my ideas for this story.

You can't get a Happy Face from readers all the time.
You can’t get a Happy Face from readers all the time. But I always need a Happy Face from myself.

I won’t change it. It makes me sad that READER doesn’t like the story because I chose to end it in an unusual way. I want READER to always like my story. But even when she doesn’t, we remain friends. Instead, I need to realize that my friends, family and even critique partners or editors are not always the best audience for a particular story. And that’s OK.

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  1. says

    I winced at the thought of Reader not liking your story. Ouch…

    I love this line: But for me, it’s a straight arrow right to the heart of the story. I love your self-assuredness and knowing that you have written the story you wanted to tell, and that you will not change it.

    I hope it’s very successful exactly as it is.

  2. says

    Thanks for the good wishes for this story. And no–I am not as self-assured as I might seem. This still hurt.
    I just know, it’s not right to change this ending!


  3. says

    Not every reader will love every story. But a good & thoughtful reader (reading for feedback) should be able to pinpoint what it is that bothers her. A “sharp left turn” means what? That she expected the story to go in one direction and it didn’t? Then, is her dissatisfaction due to wanting some sort of clue?
    OR is it just not the right story for her?
    I’m always a bit shocked when I get negative feedback from someone who has loved everything prior. So it makes me take a second look. NOT to change the story to suit that reader, but to make sure I’ve done my storytelling job well.
    Good luck.

  4. says

    You have to write your story. Listen to feedback and ask lots of questions, but in the end it is your story. That said, it is awfully tough to hear that someone doesn’t like it. Thanks for a thought-provoking post.