You know those extra-scenery notes I keep talking about writing every time I write a scene?
The ones where I write about writing, and end up with 10-20 words written per word of finished fiction?
Well, I thought I’d mine some of them for blog posts about the writing process itself.
The snippet from Journal 18:
And, since I’m posting Chapter 18, here’s a piece from the Journal 18 file I kept while writing that chapter:
“Just a minute, though: I had an interesting conversation with MM on Wattpad: she doesn’t like Andrew.
Rachel LOVES Andrew.
That is an important difference.
To capture more of the market, I need to at least THINK of all the people who DON’T like Andrew – and what he stands for.
They need to be able to like Andrew because Kary does, even if they don’t see it themselves.
Which is a biggie: a lot of people don’t like Mr. Rochester, either, or the husband in Rebecca, because they are flawed human males. Very flawed. TOO flawed for some people.”
You don’t control readers’ reaction to your characters
When you create characters, you HAVE to let the readers form their own conclusions about those characters. Once you write things as well as you can, make your case as compelling as you can, it is OUT OF YOUR HANDS.
The author doesn’t get to sit on the reader’s shoulder, pointing out what the reader should feel, and how the reader is missing the author’s point, or how this character will be revealed later as better (or worse) than he/she appears at this point in the story – or any other little thing the author DIDN’T put in the story. Or merely any little thing that the reader and the writer will DISAGREE on.
Hating Mr. Rochester
Lots of people wonder what the heck Jane Eyre saw in Mr. Rochester – they don’t get it. He is rich, mean to poor Jane, willing to be a bigamist, entitled, rude, whatever.
And some of us – lots of us, apparently, or it wouldn’t still be read – get that the attraction is Jane, and how she loves, and that SHE is what makes HIM attractive, because she is attracted to HIM and we love HER. Her gentle way with words, her ruthless self-examination, her faith: he can’t be that bad if SHE loves HIM.
And ultimately redeems him by holding HIM to HER standards.
What do you do when readers don’t see it your way?
But back to how this applies to whether all your readers will like all your characters, or react to them the way you want your readers to react.
It doesn’t matter.
If there are two groups of people in the world, those who like your character and those who don’t, it means you have to solve only HALF of the world’s problems. (Ignore, for the purpose of this exercise, those who never read your story, those who read and don’t like any of it, and those who don’t like this kind of story and wouldn’t read it even if they knew it exists.)
Just because some readers don’t like Andrew doesn’t mean there won’t be plenty of readers who do.
The conversation with MM reminds me that some people don’t like Andrew – they find him arrogant and entitled and self-centered.
I find him way too healthy.
But I love him – and half my readers may not.
Which just means that KARY will have to carry the weight of PC for them. IF they read, it will be because they identify with HER, and SHE loves Andrew with a passion she can almost not explain.
It is similar to Scarlett O’Hara’s misguided love for Ashley Wilkes – and didn’t keep millions of people who thought he was a wimp from finishing the story. (Including me.)
Phew – stop worrying!
ONE strong character can carry a story.
Some people will even identify with Bianca, and think I’m being horribly mean to her.
I can’t be all things to all people, but with 7 BILLION people on the planet, I still ought to be able to find a few readers.
Maybe the people who don’t like Andrew WILL like my writing enough to read.
No writer can understand all readers
Whereas maybe people who read badly-written genre work somehow like the protagonists enough to forgive the bad writing. Must be the case in some readers – how else do you explain it?
Real world, Alicia. Real world.
MY TASTES ARE PARAMOUNT. For MY writing only, of course.
Which is exactly the same thing the literary writers/readers say – and I think they’re plotless hacks. Well, there’s little chance I will try to join them – I can’t write either literary or genre. Duh. You write what you are, what you have made yourself out of all the writing you’ve read, plus the teaching you’ve had (heavily biased by whether you like the TEACHER enough to listen), plus everything that has happened to you and how you interpret it.
Goes right back to: you write what you are, even when you think you’re being clever and hiding yourself as an author.
Back to work!