Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Writing for Every Type of Reader

by Cindy Sproles @CindyDevoted

My mother is on the upside of 93-years-old. Weekly she reads two to three NOVELS. Not just short little novellas, but novels. Obviously, she loves reading. There’s no doubt it keeps her spry in her senior years. Her love of reading began to make me wonder exactly what draws her to read so intently.

It’s important to know there are two types of readers. Those who savor every word and those who read for the pure love of reading. The two vary greatly, so let's identify these reader types and what draws them into reading.

Two Types of Readers

The Reader Who Savors Every Word 
These readers take their time reading a book. It’s not uncommon to find book pages dog eared, highlighted lines, or even notes jotted in the margins. The reader who savors the words generally has a large collection of books neatly stacked or stored in shelves and they rarely “lend” a book because they cherish every one. I would lay odds, they do not own a Kindle because they cherish the feel of a book. The scent of the pages, the texture of the paper, is all part of the reading experience.

The savorer readers a bit slower taking in every detail. They become invested in the characters and even mourn the end of story. Savorers love stories that end with meaning and force them to long for more of the story. They will remember every character, every turn, every moment of a story. These folks will write a review that is worthy of a Pulitzer.

The Reader Who Reads for the Pure Love of Reading
These readers, read in the moment. They dig into a story, live it moment to moment, and when it’s done – they feel satisfied. Reading lovers live for stories that move quickly and fluently. Their joy is found in a sudden impactful story – books that they can’t seem to put down until the last page is turned. They devour book after book and go on the hunt for more. 

Reading lovers tear through a book, absorbing it quickly. When the story is done, these folks will decide: “Yes, I liked it” or “No, I didn’t.” That’s all they remember. They have no attachment to the characters and no expectation of a second in a series – only that they liked or disliked it.

The question becomes, how do we as writers, ping the desires of both types of readers? There is one thing both reader types have in common – like or dislike. It’s up to us to bring every paragraph to life and offer the reader of either sector, a pleasurable read.

Tips to Reach Both Types of Readers
Ping the senses: The late Ron Benrey taught that when a writer can ping every sense: hearing, sight, taste, smell, and touch in every page of a book, be it non-fiction or fiction, then the reader is drawn in and made an active part of the work. When asked if you could really do this in non-fiction, Benrey laughed a hardy laugh, and said, “Of course. You just have to believe in the work you write and dig into the emotion of what you are teaching or sharing in non-fiction. Pinging the senses brings even the boring to life.” 

Move fluidly from chapter to chapter: Keep your chapters tight being sure you tie the end of one chapter to beginning of the next. It doesn’t have to be a continuation of the prior chapter, but it does need to have symmetry and balance. Those knee-jerk moments knock the reader out of what Benrey called the fictional bubble.When we yank a reader out of that “zone,” it’s hard to draw them back.

Don’t overwrite a scene: Readers want a scene that moves them seamlessly along side the characters. Too much detail is just as bad as not enough. Carefully access if you are giving the reader exactly what they need. Keep in mind that old writing rule, “if it doesn’t move the scene ahead, nix it.” When we overwrite a scene, readers grow bored or worse, a bit insulted that the writer assumed they were unable to draw a word picture in their head. Allow your reader the joy of just enough description to paint a great picture. Overwriting takes away the joy and turns it into hard work. 

Write believable characters: More times than not, slouchy characters drive readers to slam a book closed – even those who read just for the love of reading. Just because they read quickly and for the love of words, does not mean they don’t pay attention. They do, and they, like the savorers, want a story that has good meat in the characters. Those who savor the characters want to know what makes them tick. They want to understand them. They want to be their friends. Those who read for the love of it, want the same. They just don’t remember the details two weeks later. Write characters that are well rounded. Let readers know just enough about their internal desires to make them love them and let them see their faults as well as their good qualities. Showing faults brings a character into the realm of reality. Readers relate because they too have faults – they can sympathize.

Remember as you write, who your readers are. Make your book like a recipe of beef stew – adding tidbits of goodies that blend to make a tasty delight. Your readers become the seasoning of salt and pepper. Your job is to create a story your readers hunger for. You can’t please them all…maybe, maybe not, but I’m guessing when you mix it just right, you’ll come pretty close to the perfect stew.    


Cindy K. Sproles is an author, speaker, and conference teacher. She is the cofounder of ChristianDevotions.us and the executive editor of ChristianDevotions.us and InspireaFire.com. Cindy is the managing editor for Straight Street Books and SonRise Devotionals, both imprints of Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. She is an award-winning and best-selling author and the director of the Asheville Christian Writers Conference. Visit Cindy at www.cindysproles.com.  @cindydevoted


  1. Excellent tips, Cindy. This post is filed away for future reference.

  2. You're my guiding light for writing tips. Thanks so much. Looking forward to your next teaching lesson. Shine on!

  3. Yep, I'm a savor-reader. You described me well. Now.... to make sure my own writing reaches both styles of readers.