Anyone who writes will understand that unique satisfaction an author gets when a reader understands what they’ve written.
I don’t just mean they were able to follow the plot, or even that they picked up on most of the trail of breadcrumbs you left for them through the story – if the readers can’t do that then you have a lot more revision to do. I’m talking about the things we obsess over, the things that keep us awake at night…those nuances of character and world-building that we spend perhaps way too much time thinking about. Every so often, as I’m writing, I snap out of it and wonder to myself ‘is anyone going to even get this?’
Well, I had several of my test readers who had recently finished THE SILENT ARMY over this past weekend, and something both interesting and awesome occurred – two of the readers had a bona fide arguement over one of the characters.
The character in question is named Zoe Ott. You’ll meet her when REVIVORS is released in Jan 2010. The readers in question had read REVIVORS, and watched her character develop through that novel and then through THE SILENT ARMY. WIthout giving anything away, the crux of the argument was this:
Reader A didn’t like Zoe in REVIVORS; not because she was poorly written but because she was (in the reader’s words) ‘a pathetic, unpleasant person’…in THE SILENT ARMY, Reader A warmed to Zoe and thought the direction she was headed in was a positive one.
Reader B connected with Zoe in REVIVORS, finding her ‘flawed but pitiable, and ultimately likable’…in THE SILENT ARMY, Reader B was cautiously optimistic about the direction Zoe was headed in, but worried that it was maybe not as positive as it seemed.
They argued about this…actually argued. I stood by watching, amused, and happier than either one of them could ever realize because the thing is, they were both right…the points they brought up about Zoe’s character and character arc were all central to who she is and who she will become. They got that (even if they didn’t realize it). The fact that they didn’t agree said a lot more to me than it would have if they had…the fact that they both had positions they felt compelled to argue about told me they were invested; like her or hate her, they both had a strong opinion about Zoe Ott.
Authors know what I’m talking about – writing is lonely…it’s a huge amount of effort, concentration and time with no way of knowing if the end product is going to hit its mark…when it finally reaches its audience, and they connect with it…when they ‘get’ it…is there anything better?
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