Monday, December 12, 2011

"Our Own Stuff"

"Writing gives you the illusion of control, and then you realize it's just an illusion, that people are going to bring their own stuff into it." ~David Sedaris

I found that quote this morning and it made me stop and go, "Huh. How true is that? Each of us does bring "our own stuff" into what we read."

Don't agree? How many times have you started writing something and had to scrap it because the characters just weren't speaking to you? How many times have you started reading a story and put it down because you just couldn't relate to the character?

We DO bring "our own stuff" into what we're reading or what we're writing. As writers, when something interesting happens around us, we frequently stop to think, "how can I use that in a story?" We see something, hear something, and BOOM! We HAVE to use that.

Then, when we're reading something someone else has written, we tend to identify with one particular character. If something bad happens to that character or they do soemthing that we think is 'out of the norm' for them, we can get angry with the creator of that character.

We've all heard stories of authors getting letters from 'fans' angry with them for having a character do or say something that they feel is 'not right' for that character. Even though that character sprang from the author's imaginaion, not the reader's, the reader feels they "own" that character. One of our readers swatted Cai with the second book in our Lusting Wild series because the hero of that book was the villain of book one. She was angry that we made her love him. The first book in that series is Changing Times and the second is Changing Hearts. Luckily, the hero in Changing Focus was never a villain, so we didn't get bruised for writing his story.

We agonize over our stories. We strive for perfection. We work our tails off to get everything right in our work. We hope people will become invested in our characters, our plots, our little worlds. We wait anxiously for that first review, the first time someone says, "Oh, I read your book!" We obsessively check our email for fan mail.

What we don't do is stop to think about others bringing their "own stuff" into our world. And quite possibly, we shouldn't. If we stopped to try to please everyone else, we'd never be able to please ourselves. We need to embrace our characters, give them life, and then turn them loose into the world to see what life they take on for themselves in the minds of our readers.

So what do you think about this issue of control? How does it affect your writing?


Mona Risk said...

Interesting. I've never thought of the reader bringing something to my stories; more like I need to hare things with my readers. But you're right. The way a reader, judge or critique evaluate our stories is by projecting their own feelings into it.

Jill James said...

I've gotten so many emails for Divorce, Interrupted. I didn't set out to write a controversial tale, just one a little outside the box. I have one email. She said, "I wanted to hate your characters, but I couldn't. I fell in love with them. How do you do that?" Makes it all worthwhile.

Josie said...

Gosh, your post made me ponder something I never realized. I thought I was totally in control of my characters, but to paraphrase Dr. Phil, "Everyone's version of reality is different."

Marilu Mann said...

Great comments, y'all. Thank you so much. It is intriguing to consider how much control we really don't have.