WIIFM and Story Goals

WIIFM (What’s in it for me?) is an important question to ask when writing a story. The characters need to have a goal. The reader also needs to understand that goal. A reader may not perceive the goal in a particular scene and may not connect with the story. As so many have stated before me, if the reader doesn’t connect with the story question, or with the characters, they won’t continue with the story and more importantly, they won’t recommend the book to their friends.

Over the last decade or so, I have not been the most avid football fan. That is an understatement. Every August/September my reaction is the same, “It’s football season already?” This year, however, I took the plunge and joined a couple of fantasy leagues. I’m running three teams. Mostly in an effort to educate myself in the game. What started  out as logical data-driven interest has erupted into a genuine emotional interest in the game and not just that, but the well-being and success of the individual players. This is because there is something at stake (winning or losing).

I was amazed at my own reaction to CJ Spiller being taken out of today’s game due to injury. He is on my #2 team “The Sleepers.” It is not likely that I will be able to play him next week, but time will tell. I will be watching carefully which of my running backs participate in practice and which ones look like they will not play in week 4. The difference from not paying any attention to any team at all, and concern over a particular player is WIIFM.

Just as your characters need goals (scene and overall story goals) you, as a writer and promoter of your work also need goals. You also need to understand WHO your readers are and what they get out of reading or sharing your story.

Your objective overall may be to write a story per day. It may be to have at least one published work per month, or sell a million copies. Whatever that goal is, you must examine it in light of your other goal: Who are my readers? If your book is about the history of your church, selling a million copies is probably not going to happen, unless it was the church where Martin Luther King Jr. preached. Then you might have an angle to broaden your appeal.

The appeal comes down to the reader asking themself, “What’s in it for me?” In other words, What’s at stake? If the character fails, so what? You might want to ask yourself the so what question for your own career. So what if my book never publishes? Who would be most influenced by the book being out there? Does ePublishing get the word out faster, or to a broader (or more tightly controlled) audience?



Once you identify your audience, then you can understand your audience. Finally, you can market to your audience. and marketing, even web marketing, requires a target. This Thursday, in ePublishing: A Primer, we will discuss this topic in detail and also how to publish your work electronically.


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