I am excited to share a brand new section of my blog called Authors Anonymous. It’s for all writers, no matter where you are in your journey. I will share a topic every first Monday of the month, and I’d like to open this up to other writers. If you’ve got a topic, get in touch with me and we’ll work things out!
Today I’m going to attempt stay away from my soapbox, as the subject matter is straight from the reader side of me. I try not to provoke the reader side of me. She gets all kinds of crazy over a good book, and kinda opinionated about books in general. I’m not kidding. Ask anybody who’s been around me when I get totally irrational over literature. I don’t let the reader part of me rant on Goodreads, for example. It would be bad. Monumentally bad. Craziness aside, let’s do this!
The very first topic of Authors Anonymous is Standing Your Ground.
A long time ago, I was on the couch tucked under a blanket with a honking huge book of promise. I loved that book. I love it still. One of the best things about that book was that it was just the beginning of a large series, and I was late in the game. Several books books were already out, and a brand new one was coming in a few months. That’s gold for a reader!
(Although it can be debatable whether it’s better to read them all in a short time or enjoy them over the years. *coughpossiblefuturetopiccough*)
The first book was great, and I happily checked out the second and brought it home. I sat there on the couch, stroking the cover, smelling the pages, and anticipating the adventures we were about to embark on. The book was good, but it was not great. The rest of the books were much the same.
Now, I’m probably being a little too hard on the books, but the problem that I have with them that I still can’t get over, is that the behaviors I had come to expect from the characters changed in the next book. Now, characters change. People change. That’s just life. But the thing that nagged me was that I wondered if the author backed down from certain behaviors because of complaints from readers.
This incident was a couple of years ago, but it was refreshed this weekend when another one of my favorite book series seemed to fall into the same trap. My beloved character! She changed! And I had to wonder if it was intentional (which if it was, then I’m sorry and I’ll shut up), or if it was from pressure from readers who didn’t like the character’s personality.
Which brings me to my topic. Authors, you are going to have to learn to Stand Your Ground with readers. Lookie here, I get it. The publishing industry, like the movie industry (like any other entertainment industry) relies on proven formulas for stories that sell. And then there’s social media and sites where anybody and anybody can get on their soapbox (I know, I know).
But here’s the thing. You are the parent, so act like it! It’s your book and your characters and your story. We may not agree with every bit of the book, or like every character, but readers are capable of stretching their minds a bit. And if people don’t like your character or book? Stop and take a deep breath, because you don’t need everybody’s stamp of approval to have a career. You won’t ever have everybody’s thumbs up, and there will be haters. Period. End of story.
So write your book. Look at criticisms with a grain of salt, and remember that readers aren’t perfect, and neither are you. Your job is tell the story as it is, and the world needs books that cross the lines, redefine norms, and say the things that we are afraid to say out loud. People need all kinds of characters. We aren’t all Mary Sues, for example, but some of us are! So be brave and write a Mary. Be brave and write an anti-Mary. A writer can make either situation work, and there is a reader out there waiting for your book.
Okay, I’ll admit this. I’m probably being a bit of a reader brat. I mean, there is a part of me that’s complaining because I didn’t get what -I- wanted. I was anticipating certain things, and they were not delivered. So I suppose that authors will have to stand their ground with me, as well. (Unless they want to rewrite certain things and send me an updated copy. I’m not saying they have to, but I won’t stop them, either.)
Now, this is a meeting, and I’ve spoken my part. Has anybody else had this problem as a reader? Does anybody else struggle with this as a writer? How do you approach reader opinions? Have any of your characters changed on you in a book, and you’ve worried about how that change might affect your readers? Or have you wondered about a change a writer made?
Until next month! And remember, I’m looking for other authors, no matter what stage you are in, to stand up and take the podium!