Friday, September 14, 2007

there's an interesting discussion....

going on over at Smart Bitches at the moment. It was sparked by a blog the marvelous Charlaine Harris made about the writing process on Aug 26th. Part of what Charlaine says is;

I’ve noticed lately that quite a few readers seem angry if books don’t turn out in a way that would have made them happier. That’s an attitude I find hard to understand. (Maybe it’s my age? I don’t know.) The writer is determiner of fate for his or her characters. Writing is a lone pastime, not a group endeavor. It doesn’t take a village to write a book. It takes one person, shut up in a room for hours on end.

I know that readers have every right not to be happy with the way a book ends, or with the way characters meet their fate. But to be angry with the writer? The characters belong to the writer. I know in a certain sense they belong to the reader, too; but the characters live in the writer’s mind and at her/his will.

Certainly I’m not saying that writers are above criticism; certainly I’m not saying that you should buy a book by a writer in whom you no longer have faith. I’m saying that the writer is God, as far as the characters go. The writer’s decisions are final. That’s part of the connection the writer has with her world.


I agree in part with what Charlaine says. The writer is the God of their world, and our characters are ours to do with as we please. However, once we release those books out into the wider world, those characters are no longer wholly ours. They also belonging to the people who buy our books, who love our characters, who believe in our worlds. If we, as writers, (and this is probably a problem more to do with a continuing series than a stand alone novel) take those characters down an unexpected--and unwanted--path, or make them do something that goes totally against previously described character or world rule, then who else is the reader going to blame but the writer? As Charlaine said, we're the Gods of our worlds. Therefore, we are responsible for the grief or anger of a reader who feels betrayed by the path a series has taken.

I'll use Embraced by Darkness as an example. I've been getting a huge amount of emails about the ending of the book. More so than any other book in the series. Some people just wanted to make sure there was a sixth book coming (there's actually another 4 planned) but a lot of people actually hated how I ended it, and they let me know in no uncertain terms. And yes, some of them even went as far as saying they hated me. And you know what? I'm okay with that because the ending was unexpected. I wrote that end scene fully aware that some readers were going to be upset. But it didn't go against character or worldbuilding, and I'm hoping that the readers who were so disappointed will trust me enough to follow the rest of Riley's journey. Because it is a journey, and it's not over yet.

Writing may be a lone pastime, but most writers write to sell. And if we're writing a series, then we can't do so in a vacuum. We owe it to our readers to at least be aware of their thoughts and opinions. Does that mean writers should blindly follow what the reader wants? Of course not. A writer has to be true to her world and her vision first and foremost. But they just need to be aware of the readers that have made the series possible in the first place.

And they should be prepared for not only anger, but for the reader never to pick up a book of theirs again if they break the reader's trust.

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9 Comments:

Anonymous Wendy said...

I completely agree with you. A perfect example is when I brought the third book in a series of this author (I wont mention the name) but I utterly hated almost every desiion the main characted made and even though it finished as I wanted it to, the arthur wrote it in such a way that was just a disappointment to me. Now, I don't hate her at all - it's her book after all but I remember being so unbeliebably mad when I finished the book. And now I won't ever buy another book written by her.

I'm not sorry; I adore reading and I used to love her books but that last one ruined it for me. I also returned it to the bookstore because I didn't want it to soil my other books in my wonderful bookshelves, lol! But seriously, if I had liked anything at all about it I would have honetly kept it but I didn't.


Now, about YOUR book! lol. I LOVED the ending. Honestly, I cried, I did, but I just accepted as it was because mostly I always thought that Riley would end up being happy with someone, if he wasn't the one then that's fine. Even though I cried, like I said, I was still very satisfied with the book. And I can't wait for the next one! :)

Wendy

9:02 AM, September 15, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I read Embraced by the Darkness and the ending was unexpected...but I'm still going to keep on reading about Riley...I think she is still evolving and as she does some individuals in her life may or may not be able to deal with the "new" Riley. Just like in the real world... as we we continually evolve due to the choices and unexpected consequences of planned and unplanned activities or events some friends will embrace the new us and some will not be able to deal with it. Keep doing what you're doing...You haven't lost me as a reader.

Mona

11:16 AM, September 16, 2007  
Blogger Rabbit Stitchings said...

Hi,
I love your Riley books!!! and will read every one of them!

I will admit to being sad by the ending of this last one, sad for Riley...as a reader you get attached to the characters, just as I am sure the writer does, though the writer has the advantage of knowing where the character is headed to some degree :O)...

While waiting on this last book to come out :O), when I would think of Riley it was of her being on the beach talking to the Spirit etc...for the next year while waiting on the next book :O), I will think of her with a broken heart. It makes me sad for Riley as silly as that is... she is after all a character in a book...

Your obviously such a talented writer that your readers get overly vested in your characters... though I cannot imagine people feeling the need to be unkind to you... that is just un called for and over the top...

1:49 PM, September 16, 2007  
Blogger Jackie said...

Personally, I like it when the writer does something I'm not expecting. It makes me think of the book more; trying to figure out where I missed something or an event was bigger than I thought it was. If I know where the book is going to end or if they do something I want, then where's the desire to find out what happens in the next novel? If it's predictable, why read it at all?

12:30 PM, September 17, 2007  
Blogger Jaye Patrick said...

Actually, I agree with your ending Embraced by Darkness. An alpha would never let Riley do what she must. Even if she'd told Kellen about the choices Jack gave her, there'd be nothing K. could have done about it.

Gorgeous, rich and fun as Kellen is, he's not the wolf for Riley; only another Guardian would understand and accept her.

As for so-called 'unhappy' endings, authors must remain true to the characters they've created, otherwise they're cheating their readers. Mary-Suedom is not a happy land to live in.

1:17 PM, September 17, 2007  
Blogger Kelly said...

I've read other book series that have left me so fustrated because of the abrupt ending, but it had me craving more. I've just finished "embraced by darkness" and as soon as I finished it, I had to hop online and make sure that wasn't the last book of the series. I figured it odd if it was. I can't wait until the next one comes out!

1:38 PM, September 21, 2007  
Blogger Dani said...

Keri, you already know how I feel about the ending of Embraced because of my posting at Coffee Time about it. LOL! Still I'm going to say it here...I loved it! I just had a funny feeling about Kellen, so it was great for me to see him leave. Granted I did feel bad for Riley, but she's better off this way.

I agree that the the authors are Gods (or Goddesses) of their characters and if they feel like changing things up then that's there business. I read and go with the flow. You never expect things to happen the way you want it. I may not like it sometimes, but then again that's what makes the story great.

See you at CTR!!
IrishWolf :)

4:34 PM, September 22, 2007  
Blogger phylis_s_2000_2001 said...

I have devoured the five Riley books. They are fantastic. I finished Embraced in Darkness today, before work and had a panic attack. lol My biggest fear is that there was no more. I am so happy to find out that there are more planned. There were hints that Kellan was not going to be able to handle Riley's job. He's too alpha and it wouldn't have made any difference if he knew everything that was happening to her and why she has to stay in the job. I don't think you have betrayed your characters in any way. Riley is changing emotionaly, physicaly and psychicaly. I love the books and look forward to the next ones. Sad though I am that the next one isn't until next September. *sigh* Phylis

1:14 PM, September 26, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i love all of your books in the riley series and i can't beleive people can hate you man i love you
if they really did like the books they sould just accept what is done and keep reading the series
i mean just cause one thing don't go your way don't mean you sould hate it i mean thanks to you i started to read books i used to hate it i think it was kissing sin i have all that are out now but it toke me forever to find full moon rising and i'm so happy to hear the series is going to keep going kissing sin is the first noval i ever brought and now i have like 50 or more novals and book like riley series makes life worth living

11:21 AM, September 30, 2007  

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