Good Authors Provide, Great Authors Provoke

Look, not every reader wants Lolita and The Satanic Verses. We get that. Some want nothing more risqué than cozy mysteries and sweet Christian romance. No swearing, no gore, no diddling. That’s fine.

But no matter who your readers are, or what their genre expectations, they don’t want you to play it safe. They want you to lead them right down to the border and edge them nearer and nearer the unknown. This is, after all, how every story works, guiding a reader from the comfort of everyday experience toward thrills, wonders, fears, chills, blunders, tears, and explosive, elusive, inexplicable reactions. Not the kind they’ve had before either, but somehow new.

You don’t need to swear to do that, not unless that’s where your reader starts from. But you do need to provoke. Sometimes in quiet ways, like a therapist. Sometimes emboldened, like a sea captain. And sometimes with unspoiled rage, like a villain. But always, always, always, a great author must aim to provoke.