My 12-year old daughter is a writer. She writes some edgy stuff. I encourage her creativity, although it’s dark. Very dark. Thing is, if darkness is what fascinates her, she must pursue it. No putting a genie back in the bottle. And I’m not capable of restricting anyone’s creativity, anyway.
All I ask is she create her dark worlds as conscientiously as she can. As rigorously. Not to be sensational and shock readers, but to explore character and relationship and value. To say something meaningful. Now, to understand the kind of darkness I’m talking about, you only need to know that the master of the genre she favors is Poppy Z Brite.
So I’ve insisted she read Brite’s works to see how an author creates believable character, builds motivation, and shares an unreliable narrator. Yes, my daughter is reading about serial killers, cannibalism, and rape…and liars, manipulators, and people who are just fucking evil or insane. When we discuss it, she tells me the reasons the protagonist gives for his evil. Then she thinks critically and tells me the true reason he does, despite his lies.
The Reader is Never Wrong
And to that end, I tell her the reader is never wrong.
Because she argues with me when I critique her. She tells me that I haven’t read it right or don’t know the background of this fanfic or wasn’t trying to do that, etc.
Maybe a reader didn’t understand or was sloppy in their focus. Maybe all true; definitely all meaningless. Tough advice to follow, I know. Believe me I know!
With reviews for my work that have included devastating phrases like “For erotic horror, this is neither erotic nor horror” on the same story that was described by a different reader as “The best kind of horror: psychological,” what can an author expect from readers?
Once you’re a professional and can write a decent plot and provide realistic characters and motivation (and that’s not right out of the gates but after a few works), it’s no longer whether your story is good or bad, exactly, but whether it connected with the reader.
What I’ve taken from my 15 years in the business is those readers who like my work are the ones I was writing for and the ones who don’t like it are not who I was writing for. In other words, I can write a story. It just might be one you don’t like.
A First Review for Darklaw
All this thinking arose because I received my first review on Darklaw today. I was holding my breath this month, waiting to see if any readers would appreciate what I was doing with this vast and brutal world and its complex characters.
And someone did!
Annlry has posted the first review at Amazon and mentioned those things that I consciously emphasized: immersing the reader in this alternate world with both story and illustrations, developing relationships and characters that are realistic with strengths and weaknesses, keeping the plot well-paced, and focusing on diversity in the modern sense with characters of many sexualities, genders, races, and ableness.
It’s awesome to have a 5-star review; awesomer still to see a reader who not only enjoyed the story but saw all the attention to detail. It doesn’t get more satisfying for an author than that. You can read the complete review at the Amazon link here.