Monday, April 1, 2013

On Pleasing Everyone

This morning on Twitter, I ranted about a book. This post is about that book. So if you know what book I'm talking about and don't want to see spoilers, please don't read on!


I don't think I've ever felt as insulted as a reader than I did this morning.

Writing is hard, okay? It's part perspiration and part inspiration and part masochism and part sadism and part wasting time on the Internet (mostly the last one). It's hard because of a lot of things, but I'm only going to talk about two today. First: there is going to be suffering in your book. Your characters are going to miserable for the majority of the story, or you will have no conflict and therefore no plot. A part of you is going to enjoy tormenting these characters (because ANGST), and another part of you is going to be suffering just as much as they are. Do not DO NOT DO NOT chicken out, or your readers are going to close the book.

Second: at some point, you have to relinquish control. When you got that first flash of inspiration, you made a promise to your newborn characters: I will tell your story. You are documenting lives that, even though they're fictional, have backstories, secrets, whys. Plot twists have to make sense. Endings have to stay true to the journeys that led up to them.

When they don't, your readers will know.

Anyway. Back to the book. I'm not usually a big fan of love triangles, but last night, I was about halfway through this book and I found myself thinking, this love triangle is amazingly executed. The author didn't make either of the two boys the obvious choice, and the girl caught between them wasn't annoying, and she didn't spend her time staring out into the rain, picturing their two smexy faces. The triangle didn't hinder the plot or drive it, and the characterization of the protagonists wasn't dependent upon the romantic tension. And, most importantly, it seemed that the author was going to make everyone live with their choices. In fact, she could have written a fantastically happy/tragic/satisfying ending.

But then she introduced a loophole that nearly caused me to throw the book across the room. The very essence of a love triangle is that somebody has to choose and somebody has to lose, right? You don't get to believe that one boy is dead so you can get together with the other one, and then wait till that one is dead to get together with the first one.

As a reader, I felt completely bullshitted.

Please don't write to please people. Please don't try to please everybody. Please don't write an ending that betrays the themes in your book. Please don't force an ending on your characters that isn't theirs.

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