WHEN YOU ARE YOUNG, YOU TRY OUT FEELINGS
And the books which become favorites, the ones you remember, are the ones that make you feel good somehow.
Because that’s what you get objectively and subjectively when you read/buy a writer’s book: their particular take on a life, love, and the universal.
It isn’t accidental that some books become classics: they appeal to something in the reader that makes the reader buy the book as an adult, and read it to their children, because it’s an easy way to say that: this is what I want you to grow up loving – and feeling – because it was important to me, and I want you to have it.
As you go through life, and get battered, you choose
But you have to read widely first, so you find out what you need.
Is it The Velveteen Rabbit?
Is is Pooh, original or Disney (or both)?
Is it mysteries or gory serial killer thrillers? Do you like fantasies and are you satisfied when someone else – the protagonist – is The One? Or do you prefer stories in which, due to the writer’s skill, YOU are the center, the quester, the One.
There’s a whole MATRIX of other relevant bits
- Historical time
- Location on this planet or an alternate universe
- Complexity of ideas
- Style and tone and vocabulary
But the most important one is always: how does it make you FEEL?
Because that’s what you’re looking for in the next story, the next favorite, the next book.
And that’s what will determine a basic satisfaction with what you read, and what you look for when you take a chance on something new.
I’m a sucker for well-written books
And I get annoyed when that leads me astray: well-written – but with a basic nastiness to the ending; well-written – but with an underlying misogyny or racism; well-written – but with characters you’d never want to meet in real life.
I still remember one book which was recommended by a literary blog I no longer recall and which the reviewer said it was a shame more people hadn’t read, since it was so well-written. I bought it! I read it! I was indeed very well written. And the recommendation made me miss the early red flags, because the story, about a murdered young girl, and how it affected her family and friends, turned into a story which blamed the victim for her own murder – because of the way she ‘responded’ to the sick adults who perverted her innocence. And the final conclusion to the story was that it wasn’t important to identify and stigmatize the killer!
I deleted the book from my Amazon account, something I rarely do, but haven’t been able to scrub how it made me feel from my mind.
Because first the writer described how wonderful she was and how everyone loved her – and then destroyed her by saying she deserved what happened to her! As if anyone, especially a child, a teen, deserved to be murdered.
It makes me wonder WHY someone would write such a book. And realize there’s a whole subculture of writers who do – and readers who love those books.
When I write I make conscious choices
I leave the characters those turnoffs that the big trucks use on a mountain road when their brakes fail – but I can’t make the characters use them.
I adopt the slow burn: things happen with enough time to think about why, to consider consequences, to justify actions. There are plenty of stories – and real life events – where something pivots on a tiny accidental point. They don’t interest me because there is nothing a character can do to avert the coming disaster – they will cope with the change, and the coping will show who they are, but it’s a cop-out, and, under dire circumstances, even good people make mistakes. And have to live with the consequences of a split second.
Not much in the way of subtlety with the turn-your-life-on-a-twisted-dime stories, especially if the reader can see it coming at the previous mile marker. Plus, those books don’t reward re-reading, and that’s a waste: depending on a trick ending is a fool-me-once.
I WANT to write something re-readable.
I want it to take several readings to see many of the connections.
I want most readers to have to go back and read the previous volume before the new one – or to have internalized what came before so they wouldn’t have to (I’ve had both kinds of readers comment about this).
I offer the usual bargain:
I do the work – you tell me how it made you feel.
Then tell me how it worked for you.
Try it out on the prequel 1500 word short story Too Late.
Then remember there’s plenty more where that came from.