Thursday, September 15, 2011

Irrevocable Decisions...

As authors we make a ton of decision every time we tell a story. Everybody knows that. Our readers have to put up with those decisions. Some are going to like them and some are not. Let’s face it.

I recently ran up against a book where an author made one of these big irrevocable decisions. This is an ongoing series and the author did something to fundamentally change the main character’s life.

As an author I thought it was brave and daring because there is no walking back from this decision. It’s not like in the old days of daytime soaps where you could kill a guy by having him drive off a cliff and then suddenly bring him back to life ten years later.
When it’s done – it’s done.

I thought about the courage it took to go that direction not knowing how readers were going to react to it. But the truth is as a reader I hated it.

It made me think about how important the really big decisions are. This writer removed an entire element of the series that might not be an issue for a couple of books, but could impact the series down the road when you start to worry about how you can continually show character growth.

This writer took a chance a lot of readers (including me) were going to be disappointed. The author had to hope the disappointment wouldn’t be so great these readers don’t come back for more.

For the record – I probably will go back.

But it really brought home the concept that when we make the big decision, when we take the road less traveled or bring about a major change which will dictate the character’s actions going forward - we really really need to think about what it means. Not just to us the author – who is telling the story – but to the people we tell the story too.

I’m not saying give the fans what they want all the time. We have to own our work. But when we know we’re probably going to upset them, then we need to consider the whole picture before we do.


Maureen McGowan said...

Great post Steph. Right now, this seems like a problem I'd love to have. :)

Eileen said...

I think there's a risk if you don't take chances, too, though. I stopped reading Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series years ago because it was the same stuff over and over again. Her character doesn't grow and doesn't change and I got irritated with her and bored. So by not taking chances that might be unpopular with readers (I'm sure there are Team Ranger and Team Joe people out there), she lost me. And, really, who could stand to lose me? ;-)

Stephanie Doyle said...

Eileen - if I ever lost you I would be devestated :)

I agree. And the Plum books are a great example of giving readers too much of what they want. I mean how long can a person vacillate between two men.

I just think in this particular case - the author had some wiggle room. The decision to do what she did didn't have to be so final

But who am? This person is an NYT bestseller.

Eileen said...

And, by extension, who am I to criticize Janet Evanovich?

This is one of those things where I feel like I think too much about this stuff. Do readers care if book #X is a completely rehash of book #1? I'm thinking that they don't and it's just me.

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