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Reflections of a working writer and reader

 

 

Which Story Should You Tell?

At The Robblog, Robb has a question: How do you know when to listen to feedback and change your story?

Does a story’s power and resonance come from the author, as if in a vacuum? Or does it come from the relationship between the story and the reader? And if a writer works in an area to which he knows the reader brings baggage, isn’t it wise to use that baggage to his own advantage? I thought this is what I was doing, playing with the reader’s expectations and having fun by subverting them. But Abbot’s reader disagreed, saying I was bringing a very specific audience to the story – and then doing precisely the thing that would most efficiently bore and disappoint it.

2 Responses to “Which Story Should You Tell?”

  1. Jim Murdoch says:

    Of course an author doesn’t work in a vacuum. The catch is that we don’t have an ideal reader (other than ourselves), we have a wide variety of readers, some of whom will love what we’ve done and some of whom will hate it. It’s like the fable by Aesop where the two men, father and son, are going to market walking beside a donkey and one passer-by suggests the old man get on the donkey then another suggests the young man gets on and they end up carrying the donkey on a pole between the two of them. You can’t please all the people all of the time; be grateful if you please anyone even some of the time.

    jb says: Hi Jim. Of course you may also have several people who love or loath your work, in each instance, for different reasons. I don’t know who it was said that a book has as many interpretations as it has readers, but I do believe that is the case.

  2. Lee says:

    It’s an issue which comes up again and again, especially for indie writers like myself who publish online, since the commenting format seems to invite suggestions for improvement – and everyone has suggestions! In the end I find myself returning to the reason I write – to grapple with the challenges I set myself. Readers will have to look after themselves. Some interpret this as arrogance, but I suppose any writer who takes their work seriously needs a healthy measure of it to keep going.

    jb says: Hi Lee. Yes, I’m sure it’s very different for people who publish online, because the feedback comes so much sooner. In the traditional publishing format the delay between finishing a manuscript and seeing it in published form can be a year or longer. In the period of a year a writer has often forgotten much about his or her own story, moved on to something else. So the readers responses are no longer quite so relevant.