As a writer, I most certainly want readers to enjoy my story. With that said, I think there's a difference between writing a story that will make readers happy and writing a story that stays true to the characters and the way the story is meant to unfold.
I think sometimes it's hard to stay true to our characters, especially when they want to go in a direction that may not make readers happy. As a writer, what do you do? Do you write the story so it'll sell books and keep controversy to a minimum or do you listen to your characters and let them take the lead, even if you don't agree with "their" decisions.
As a pantser (a type of writer who does not plot things out, but rather writes by the seat of his/her pants), I let my characters take the story where they want to take it. Sometimes it leaves me shaking my head and cringing. The decisions my characters make aren't always the decisions I would have made for them. Sounds silly, right? After all, I'm the one writing the story. And yet... I feel as though I'd be untrue if I wrote something that didn't fit what my character would do, or the decisions she/he would make. I also think there's something to be said for writing the story you want to write, without being influenced by what others will think of you or your story.
If you've read my book, Viridis, there's a scene in there that left me cringing, and you'll likely know the one. Would I have done what Phoebe did? I don't know. But what I do know is that the decision she made was true to her character, based on her fears and emotions at that point in the story. Truth be told, I originally wrote the scene so I would know what Phoebe went through, but had no intentions of putting it in the book, for fear that readers would freak out. However, my agent convinced me otherwise, explaining that Phoebe's reactions to what occurred seemed like an over-reaction if the reader didn't get to see what actually happened. I took her advise and put it in, and though I feel I remained true, sure enough, not all readers have been happy.
Once more, Devil on a Sparrow's Wing, book 2 in the series, left me thinking and rethinking the ending. It would certainly be easier to pick an ending that would be less controversial, and yet... any endings other than the one chosen would not have been true to my characters. I can only hope that my readers will know my characters well enough by then, and will understand it was what my characters would have done.
It isn't easy to stay true, especially when you know they'll be some backlash. But I'm happy that I've stayed true to my characters, even if my story isn't everyone's cup of tea--not to say I won't try to make everyone happy if there's a way to do it and still keep in line with what my characters want. ; )
How do you get around this sort of dilemma? Do you find a way to tweak things so everyone's happy, including your characters and your readers, or do you throw caution to the wind and just write your story without giving it any thought?