Through the Eyes of a Ghost

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After reading beauty's testimony by Bree, I remembered a feature of the writing life which I have been slowly coming aware of, and that is that, as writers, we tend to talk to writers about writing, confined in our writing clique, and generally fail to look at it from the reader's point of view.
The fact is, the readership doesn't really care a lot about the writer.
I know that sounds harsh, and it isn't as if they couldn't care less about us, but the truth is that they want the stories, not the authors.  Think about yourself when you pick up a book off a shelf at Barnes & Noble.  While you scan the cover and read the back synopsis, you don't think, "That is excellent composition on the cover: I can see how the design artist pulled in many of the author's highlights from the story.  And that synopsis is really well done: I wish I could compress my story into such a succinct few lines."  No, you think, "That is a totally awesome cover and I like the sound of this plot.  There go my college savings."

There is nothing wrong with discussing the former remarks, especially with other writers.  There are some readers who don't mind engaging in some of the fringe elements of our work, and when you come across those sorts of people, it's a lot of fun!  At least they don't back away from you carefully, after gingerly setting down a cup of tea as a sort of peace-offering in the hopes that you don't hurt them...  But there are a lot of readers in the world who aren't writers, and that's okay!  We need to be as sensible of their point of view as they are tender and patient with ours.

Personally, I love getting into the nitty-gritty with other authors about their work: not merely their plots, but how they go about executing the process of writing and design.  But there is a place for that, and its place isn't usually in interaction with the readership.  The readership wants to know if your book is any good, any fun, at all edifying, worth their while, worth their money.  I know that talking about my writing is one of the hardest things about my job, and a comfortable fall-back is to talk about it in my own terms.  But that isn't what people want to hear.  We talk endlessly about criticism and being ready to receive what others have to say about our writing, but it's high time we as writers took into account what the readers think, and speak their language from time to time. 

4 ripostes:

  1. Now this is true. I have always hated the boring "Director's Commentary" on movies, much preferring to listen to the actors' commentary wherein they discuss all the ins and outs of the FUN bits and stop talking about what cameras and angles and technology they used.

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  2. Me too Rachel. Though if you've ever seen Broken lens production their directors commentaries are hilarious.

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  3. ^^^^ YES. ^^^^

    Er, moving on...
    I was hoping you'd post about this. It always seems a harsh thing to say; that your readers are more interested in what you can give them through your writing, and not you yourself. But the only reason we want to meet authors and sit down with them to talk about plot bunnies is because we're in the same boat with them. A reader might not even know what a plot bunny is, much less care how we dealt with it.
    Speaking the reader's language...I like that idea. ;)

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  4. I'm weird in the way that I absolutely /love/ hearing and learning about the writers, the directors, the actors, and whoever else was involved. :) I watch all commentaries on my favorite movies when I have the time, I search out information about novelists and directors and other similar people just to learn about them.

    I guess that makes me a weirdo. ;) And I'm a-okay with that.

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