Humans have emotional needs. Animals do too, but ours are complex. These are not fallacies. You will find further research and reports in different categories, such as emotional needs in children, adults, or women. Before you ask what this has to do with fiction writing, stick with me for a few more paragraphs.
Some human emotional needs are love, acceptance, inspiration, orgasm, and adventure. Most of these are associated with other needs or actions. For instance, eating good food can satisfy hunger and bring you joy. When you feel cold, you seek warmth and get comfortable in the process. Generally, humans always seek more positive emotional needs such as love, joy, and adventure. My question is, what do you do when you want to feel something but don’t have access to such things? For example, you want to feel loved, but you’re single and lonely.
Most of us look for cheaper alternatives such as gaming, social media, porn, movies, music, and books. Talking about books, it’s one of the cheapest ways to fulfill some of your emotional needs without leaving your couch or stepping out of your room. You can be an emperor, feel loved, your heart race, or your eyes water by going through the pages of a book (or a movie, etc.).
Fiction readers say things like, “I love this book. It’s about a man who lives in space and tries to protect his family.” If we look at those comments carefully, we see something we can interpret as “I experience what it’s like to be a father trying to protect his family in space.” As a ghostwriter who spends hours reading and writing fiction daily, I can interpret that a little further “I enjoyed reading this book about a father who shows an undying love for his two kids and wife on a strange planet.”
If such readers enjoy what they read, they seek more of it.
Over the years, I’ve learned to fulfill the reader’s fantasies when writing, which is more about tilting towards the market than artistic instinct. In readers’ circles, they call it tropes or genres. Trope is another way of saying, “This is what we want to see in a book, but don’t make it boring.” Therefore writers tend to read the tropes, study them, and write something “new” around the expected features or interests the readers have about the trope. If you come across these types of books, you read something inspired by the market, a trope, or a love for a genre. The intent is entertainment not much about intellectual value because they are written to satisfy the emotional needs of a group of people.
Amazon is one of the biggest places where people find what they want to read, but there are other places like Wattpad, Radish, etc.
They are not literary fiction which are written about real-life situations and to answer difficult questions about life or society. For example, The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas is one masterpiece and answers some difficult questions about human nature. Only a few people care about others, especially in a case where other people’s pains bring them money or property. (Click on the link to read my detailed review of the short story.)
Remember, if there is an active community — if people keep coming together to talk about something — there is an opportunity to make money. So, some people with some money come up with the idea of hiring a team of writers, editors, designers, marketers, and cover artists. It’s like a publishing house but depends on online sales and mass production. It’s how Netflix releases many series yearly (they ensure fair quality and focus on quantity). I’ve worked with such “publishers” as a ghostwriter. They care about two things: one, meeting the requirements of the market (trope/genre), and two, quantity. Again, you don’t buy these books written for entertainment or to satisfy the emotional needs of romance, orgasm, and fantasy and expect intellectual value from them.
My job as a ghostwriter is to expand on what the investors think will sell. Often, these investors are also fiction readers, so they get it. Some are serial authors. They get it too.
So they treat fiction books as products. The buyers are looking for entertainment or a place to fulfill their fantasies. We offer them a slow escape from reality. Most of them are happily married or dating, but that feeling of reading about people is too good to be true situations. We offer them a chance to live a dream they can only get in a library.
I will give a specific example here. One of the most popular romance genres is billionaire romance. Amazon records more than 30k searches for “romance” and more than 1000 queries for “billionaire romance” every month, according to Ahref. There, of course, are other variations of the searches, such as “clean billionaire romance,” “alpha billionaire,” or “BBW billionaire romance.” I have read books in this genre. Often, you can predict them after reading the blurb or synopsis. It’s the nature of this “product” to be predictable to a certain level. The common things with billionaire romance are a billionaire male, a woman in a financial situation, and hot-blistering sex.
Let’s run through some statistics and discuss why these books sell. If American women fantasize about a billionaire husband, the probability of getting one is too low. According to Forbes, America had 735 billionaires in 2022. Some are women, so we have stripped our list slimmer. I don’t want to talk about how many of these billionaires can provide hot-blistering sex. My guess is our list will get thinner. (I mean, they are busy making money).
So, the reality is that many people want to date and be in a relationship with a billionaire, but they won’t get one. These readers look to bookstores to fulfill something they crave but can’t have. And it doesn’t mean they are in a bad relationship or seeking help; it’s a fantasy that answers, “What is it like dating a billionaire?”
Now, we have a market. We’re in business. Fiction as a product: The concept is to write for a hungry market that reads for entertainment and reads fast. You will find authors who have written 100 (50k words) books in the past ten years or ten books per year. Many are not real authors. They hire ghostwriters on Upwork, Fiverr, or Reedsy. No, these genre-fictions are not a reasonable interpretation of reality. They are not doing an excellent job of teaching or subtly illustrating how things work in real life. Look at the genre of fantasy, for instance. Half of what you read in this genre does not happen in real life. No one can secrete spider webs. Such books are a product, something to satisfy your emotional needs or fulfill your fantasy of seeing real heroes. The real-life heroes don’t have superpowers.
This is the business of fulfilling fantasies. As a writer, the best way to get into this market is to write stories you enjoy but don’t understand why you do. I like thrillers and literary fiction, for instance. I like seeing actions as long as love. I want books to play with my intelligence in a way that makes my thinking slow down to a stop. Then, it speeds up again. If you’re in this boat, you’ll enjoy my books.
Sometimes, people’s fantasies revolve around another famous human. A type of fiction called fanfiction answers this fantasy. It’s writing about a famous person; everything is made up or an extension of what people already know about the person. Let’s say you like Asa, and someone writes a book that uses what they know about the artist as the book’s character. Anna Todd wrote one, and the book made it to Netflix—a big deal.
The business of fulfilling fantasy is a big deal. Drugs, porns, and artworks are parts of these products. They can get you addicted pretty fast. Fiction is one of them. It solves fantasies, even if people don’t want to admit they like reading about sex between humans and aliens, or a priest and the person they are meant to admonish.