Showing posts with label criticism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label criticism. Show all posts

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.

Mar 21, 2016

Taking Criticism

E-book available on Amazon. Print soon
Writers have to learn to accept criticism. It starts with your editor, who takes out some of your favorite passages because they don't advance the plot.
"But it's a commentary on society!" you whine.
"You're not a philosopher. You're a mystery writer," is the reply.
Then you get the beta reader who wants the story to end differently. "Why didn't she hook up with the sheriff?"
"I preferred to suggest that she might and let the reader imagine it. I didn't want to start another whole thread in the last few pages."
(Pouty face) "I think you should say it."
Later come the readers, who go on Amazon and say things like, "The author speaks of a 'dollar' but there were no dollars in Tudor England."
Actually, the word was slang for a coin called a crown in the 1500s. But don't let my months of research top your assumption you know what you're talking about.
Of course, there is criticism that's justified. My favorite story is the person who wrote to inform me that though the first Simon & Elizabeth book was interesting and historically well done, I'd put in rhododendrons, which didn't exist in the 1500s.
Okay, I'll take the blame for that one. Who knew? And who'd have thought to include it in her research? (Well, I do now!)
Writers have to learn not only to take criticism, but to not take it as well. Tastes vary. Best-selling authors sometimes leave me cold, since they don't write things I like to read. I try not to conclude they're bad writers because of my tastes. It's hard when a reader assumes that because he/she felt a certain way about a book, that's the final truth of it. "I didn't feel connected to the characters because they were not well-developed" is hurtful. It helps, though, when the very next review says the exact opposite. "Great characters that felt like people I knew well. I was eager to know what they'd do next."


 

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