Wish fulfillment is treated like a dirty phrase by critics, writers, and even many readers.
But Reading is About Wish Fulfillment
Each story is a wish of the writer, the protagonist, the reader. We immerse ourselves in dreams. We spend months or years breathing life into them, till they breathe of their own and fly forth to be the air other dreamers inhale.
Disparaging wish fulfillment is poison.
- It rejects the soul of our vocation.
- It is self-hate.
- It denies our readers what they yearn for.
Why the universal guilty secret then? Wish fulfillment is treated like masturbation—lambasted, leaving us feeling ashamed after coming down from the glory—even if it’s natural, human.
Because it’s so derided we’ve become crippled in our execution. The few who dare to do it openly buttress it with caveats, and backpedal from it, undermine it. How often does an author who opened with wish fulfillment spend the rest of the work on its opposite—like some sort of ascetic apology.
Don’t make paltry dreams. Wish deeply—find the summits of ecstasy and throw yourself off them. Don’t worry—if you do it right you’ll find your valleys too—but you should be looking up again from the depths, back at those glittering peaks.
We Need Better Wishes
Readers need better wishes. Wish fulfillment is fan fulfillment. Harry Potter and Twilight were both wish fulfillment stories. I find that no shocker. Their outlandish success is due to specific emotional beats and targeted audience appeal—but also… wish fulfillment. Diagon Alley? A devoted lover who even sparkles in the sunlight? Mirror of Erised? Super powers and magical powers? Acquisition of a family of choice? Money—piles of it? Fancy transportation? After a lifetime of being devalued—finally finding overwhelming acceptance and popularity?
Do you hunt wishes? Do you craft them? Do you venture into the parts of yourself adults said you had to give up? No…? Maybe you should.
What will they call you? Commercial? Insipid? Shameless? Lacking in rigor?
Here’s a truth—you can take people to deeper, darker places if you contrast your pits with pinnacles. And you don’t have to have just one and then the other. Yes, plenty of landmark tales have been told about a fall from wealth and power to the gutter—but that’s depressing. Readers like the unexpected—do you remember Goonies? Yeah—dream. Like a kid. And yes, there will be nightmares also. Yet if you live them both authentically you’ll find something powerful, an undertow current and a cresting tidal wave, one into the other, one out of the other. That’s where powerful writing lies.
I know I still have work to do for my readers—to become the conduit for what I could. There is epic that I can chart the trajectory to that I cannot yet see the vista of. That is the crux of inspiration—the font of motivation. How to get there from here? What skills do I need? Where do I mine them? Better doesn’t come from nowhere. It is not easy. But it is joy.
“But being a wizard is stupid.” “And I want something more mature than a love interest that sparkles.”
Then you weren’t the audience for those dreams. Are you telling me you can’t think of one that would suit you better? There are other readers like you—they’re your audience. Satisfy them. Blaze new frontiers in intelligent, sophisticated wish fulfillment.
If your laying out a feast—you don’t have to finish it with pixie sticks.
But chocolate fondue? Egg custard? Amaretto? Gelato? Amaretto-Gelato? Indulge the adult in me—I dare you. Want a piranha frenzy to break out at Barnes & Noble over who gets that last book on the denuded forklift pallet? We all do. Because I want to read a book that good too. And so do all the other super readers.
Fulfill your wishes.
Fulfill our wishes.
It’s really that simple.
P.S. pixie sticks on a summers day as a 7 year old were magic. I never sneer at magic.