I once heard a speaker—a man who had spent years of his life helping repair broken marriages—say that the most deadly threat to a relationship was unfulfilled expectations.
Now there are a lot of reasons that two people who once fell in love fall away from one another and then apart. Expectations may not be the biggest factor, but it is a factor.
I’m not professional counselor, and we’re not here to talk about marriages. No, instead I’m going to talk about expectations in entertainment.
Dunkirk. I had a bunch of people tell me that this was not the movie they expected. Personally, I had hoped to see this incredible moment in British WW2 history played out through the eyes of a couple of characters that I cared about, cheered for and cried when one of them died. Because how else are you going to really get under people’s skin?
Even after several trusted friends warned me, and my expectations were low, I still didn’t like the movie.
Well, because while it portrayed an incredible moment in British WW2 history played out through the eyes of a couple of characters, I was only somewhat invested in one character. And I didn’t feel anything the moment tragedy struck him. The editing was strange. The time jumps weren’t clear from the beginning, and made the film confusing.
I went in expecting a war movie from the perspective of civilians (the rescuers in the boats) and instead got an artsy movie about war with an annoying sort of air-raid siren sound in background of the entire first hour. I assume it was supposed to build tension. It only served to irritate me. Irritated customers do not come back. Irritated customers do not recommend the experience to their friends.
On the other hand, the hubby and I went to see Pacific Rim Uprising a few weeks ago.
What were we expecting?
That’s easy. Giant robots fighting giant monsters held together by a flimsy plot that would probably do nothing more than move the film from fight to fight. They didn’t sell it as anything more.
What did we get? Giant robots, fighting giant monster, giant robots and aliens. With a decent plot that indeed kept the moving going between fights. As a matter of fact, there wasn’t as much fighting as I had expected, but hey, I still enjoyed it.
See that last phrase? I still enjoyed it.
That doesn’t mean Pacific Rim Uprising was the best movie I’ve seen this year, but I left it feeling entertained. We laughed, we admired the action sequences, I enjoyed the completely cliché characters and we only made fun of the plot holes a little.
We enjoyed it because it met our expectations.
A film that went beyond that was Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle.
I expected funny and stupid. I got so much more! I won’t go into it, you can see my review here, but instead of meeting my expectations, this movie exceeded those expectations. I loved the new Jumanji.
Not just enjoyed, but loved.
This leads me to a simple conclusion.
If I want readers to come back for more of my books I need to, at the very least, meet their expectations. Those come from my cover and the blurb of my book.
But if I want them to love my stories and be clamoring for more, I’m going to have to figure out how to exceed those expectations. This is how I stay in healthy relationships with my readers.
What books or film have either met, exceeded your expectations? Which ones have left you wishing you would have used that time doing something different? Comment below!