Feb 5, 2021

How Writing Changes Reading

 Note to audio fans: Deceiving Elvera is in the works for an audio book. The whole industry seems to be slowed by COVID 19, but I'll let you know as soon as I know.

                                                    How Writing Changes Reading

 I have a friend who's a book reviewer, and she and I often talk about how reading changes a person's reading (if that makes sense, you're a reader). When you start as a kid and read for, say, five decades, you bring a lot of background to each new book you pick up. It's hard for an author to surprise you or entrance you, because you've seen it all before. I recall my daughter telling me how wonderful the Harry Potter books were, so I read the first one. My thought was, "Cute, but hasn't anyone read The Once and Future King?

Being an author is likely to make a person even more of a picky reader than a past filled with books. Writers see plot lines developing, because we've done that ourselves. In the book I'm currently reading, a better-than-average mystery, I have figured out that the bad guy has to die at the end, because it's the only way the hero will ever stop him. I'm in a similar place in my current WIP (Work in Progress). I know a certain character has to die. I'm just not sure of the "how" part yet.

Authors see weaknesses that most readers ignore. We think things like, "You needed to set the stage for that surprise a little better." Sometimes we can't swallow an author's ending, characterization, or even her whole premise. For example, I once read a well-reviewed book where the whole ending hinged on the villain pausing before killing the hero because she found a lipstick in her purse and had to try it out. In the jungle. Someone else's lipstick. I remember thinking, "My editor would never have let me get away with that!"

Generally, I don't comment publicly, but some writers get very uppity about pointing out a book's faults. In an author group I'm a member of on Facebook, a poor woman asked a simple question: How many readers would know that in the 1400's (I think), salt was stored in blocks? For a funny scene, she wanted a servant character who was not a deep thinker to mix up salt and sugar. She got lectured, lampooned, and generally berated by people who assumed she was making fun of those who have learning deficits, which she specifically said wasn't the point of the scene. Some said any reader would know that salt came in blocks. (Um, really? I once had a reader tell me she'd visited the spot where Queen Elizabeth I stayed when she came to Canada.) Some said no book should include a scene with a learning disabled servant because...I'm not sure there was a reason, just outrage. One author even told the questioner that she needed to rewrite the whole book.

While I notice things as I read that I would have done differently, I try to give authors credit for knowing their own story, voice, and reason for what they write. Being an author makes us aware of what writing requires, which can lead authors to being more critical than other readers. Hopefully we'll be more understanding as well.

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