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ENTRY

Theory of Satisfaction: Part 3
July 7, 2008

(This part discusses the fourth and fifth topics of the six introduced in Part 1. )

Satisfaction varies greatly from person to person. Satisfaction is perhaps one of the most variable human emotions. Because we have such diverse and temporal needs, each of us has differing levels of satisfaction. For any number of people experiencing a situation, there will be an equal number of satisfaction responses.

That's one reason I find it difficult to digest the feedback of my writing from several people at once. I used to belong to a writer's group, a very good one by the way but that's another story. Getting feedback from eight or nine people on my writing usually elicited eight or nine different responses. One reader might be satisfied with the main character having unsympathetic qualities, find them to add complexity to the character. Another might find the unsympathetic qualities too unsavory. For example, in one novel-in-progress, the main character is dealing with pathological anger and rage. His outbursts give him a dark edge to his otherwise staid and responsible demeanor. Part of the novel's suspense is wondering how and when he will lose control. As you can imagine, some people like the character, some people hate him.

As I write, I try to stay focused on the vision I have for the novel. In other words, I'm not thinking too much about reader satisfaction. Mainly because there are too many readers to satisfy. Trying to satisfy them all is impossible, because each has a unique, changing, and temporal satisfaction index. I can really only satisfy myself. And if that occurs then I believe some others will find the work satisfying. Whether there will be enough satisfied readers to sustain a career is, again, another story.

Satisfaction is relatively short-lived. The feeling of being satisfied doesn't last very long. We can completely satisfy our hunger with a meal only to be hungry in a few hours. While I'm writing, the satisfaction of writing a good scene disappears in a few moments as I work on another. The emotion is not as long lived as say happiness or grief, however, there might be a residual glow of satisfaction for a while.

Dissatisfaction can also linger, perhaps longer than its positive side. If I'm struggling to make a scene work, or a character come alive, and nothing is satisfying me, the feeling can stay with me until I fix the problem. I find that often my subconscious is working on the problem. A solution can pop into my awareness even if I'm not consciously thinking about the problem. Now that's satisfying!

A reader's satisfaction is also short-lived. We might find a novel to be richly satisfying, even perfectly satisfying, yet we don't stop reading new books. We will likely reread the richly satisfying book, despite knowing what happens. We want to relive that satisfactory experience, and find even more satisfactory experiences.

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COMMENTS

Number of comments: 7
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Jo Reed
These two also go back to your previous post about advice. I've gotten away from seeking advice at all. Write for myself!

Todd
In the end, writing for yourself is a good strategy. The question are there enough readers who find what you do satisfying to them, enough to buy your books.

Lee Witte
Based on this, it seems almost impossible to make a living at this.

Todd
It is tough! And getting worse. But that makes publishing all the more gratifying.

Jo Reed
At least I'll have one person satisfied.

Lee Witte
If you're lucky, Jo.

Jo Reed
Ha.

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