Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Writers & Readers & Books, Oh, My!

Writers talk about many things regarding their craft and all the varied aspects of it. The nuts and bolts, the how-tos of the craft, the jungle of the publishing world, how tough it is it find a great agent/editor/publisher...etc. However, not enough time, I think, is spent considering the symbiotic relationship between reader and writer.

We as writers must remember only one person at a time reads your book. 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's reader's imagination. The writer offers ideas, thoughts, a story, but it is the reader who sits with the book and strings those thoughts and ideas together. 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 is about the reader that we as writers must remember?  Well most writers are readers, think about what it is you get out of what you read.  What you expect from a good writer you read.

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. Such stories are uplifting and give hope to what is experienced in non-reading moments.

*People love to read about themselves. Writers, in great books, convince their readers they're doing just that.

*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.

*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".

*When you really think about it, the gift of the writer is to stimulate other peoples' imaginations. The book 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.

*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.

There are  many other aspects of the reader/writer relationship; all sorts of nuances to discuss. But remember, in order for a writer to create a really great book that will appeal to his reader he must keep in mind the fact that 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 may not 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. So the writer's job is to bear these questions in mind and answer them even before the reader picks up that book.

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