Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Writers & Readers & Books, Oh My!

Writers talk about many things regarding their chosen poison-their craft and all the varied aspects of it. They discuss the nuts and bolts, the how-tos of writing craft, the jungle of the publishing world, how tough it is it find a great agent/editor/publisher, whether the should go with hard copy  publishing, Epublishing, self- publishing...etc. However, not enough time, I believe, is spent considering the symbiotic relationship between reader and writer.

Yes, there I said it, the relationship between reader and writer.  The reader wants, demands a great tale.  The writer is not nearly so alone as he/she believes while that reader is out there.

We as writers have to keep in mind that only one person at a time reads the book you've written. It's not a theater crammed with people who react and share the experience.

One person, with a book, reading.

That's it.

The truly excellent writer must learn to link with his or her reader's imagination. The writer offers ideas, thoughts, color, a story, but it is the reader who sits with the book and strings those thoughts and ideas together and applies the supplied color. It is the reader the writer must seduce and draw into the story. It is the single reader the writer must trust to 'get it'. Much better to assume your reader is smarter than you are than the reverse.

So what is it about the reader that we as writers must remember?  Well most writers are readers (and dare I say ALL excellent writers are readers?). Think about what it is you get out of what you read. What draws you in and holds your attention. Why do you read one author and not another? Even discounting your possible genre preference - what draws you to one writer but not another?

In addition to that, here are a few thoughts.

*Why read a story? To see someone struggle against all odds, succeed, and somehow grow while succeeding. Those kinds of stories are uplifting and give hope to what is experienced by the reader in non-reading moments.

*People love to read about themselves. Writers, in crating great books, convince their readers they're doing just that. The reader is able to put himself into the story.

*Luckily for Writers, Readers really do want to suspend disbelief. They don't want to just read the words you've written, the story you've created - they want to be drawn in, seduced to experience it. They don't want to, however, suspend credibility. Your created worlds must be real and true to their own reality. (I've discussed this before and it remains bedrock.)

*When it comes to book series, readers love them. A good series provides familiarity and deeper connection to the characters. Emphasis on the words "good series". So if you have a 'series' in you, it's a great way to go. You'll love it and your readers will love you for it.  The best kind are the kind, like "Harry Potter" in which the readers don't want to let you go.

*When you really think about, the gift of the writer is to stimulate other peoples' imaginations. The book, the story,  is given birth in the writer's mind, but it is in the reader's mind where it truly lives and expands beyond the limits of what was written. Oh, if you could only see inside your readers' minds!

*Another bit of reality: it doesn't matter how good your book is, someone won't like it. There is no way for any single piece of writing to appeal to everyone equally. And, whether you as the writer see it or not, accept it or not, the writing will not speak to all readers in the same way.  Each one will take something different away from the experience. Each one will create his own world from what you've written.  That's the way it is.

There are  many aspects of the reader/writer relationship; all sorts of nuances. But remember, in order for a writer to create a really great book that will appeal to his reader he must keep in mind readers automatically ask several questions when picking up a book:  Who are the people?  Is this story even possible, could it happen for real? and Why the heck should I care about any of it? They don't usually ask those questions out loud or even consciously think about them, but they're there.

Fortunately for the writer the reader wants to be convinced. He wants to care, he wants to spend a few  hours in your world. So the writer's job is to bear these questions in mind and answer them even before the reader picks up that book.

So write your story, live in the world you create for a time, but think about your reader along the way.  You've got company in that world. Reades are a writer's best friends.  Treat them that way.

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