Friday, February 24, 2012

Emotions: Reader vs. Writer

Jennie wrote about rousing emotions with our writing. I totally agree that is an essential part of the crafting of a story. But sometimes as we tell the tale that is spinning in our heads, the emotions we seek to invoke are not necessarily the ones that happen.
My daughter, Nikki, is my best editor. She is an avid reader, and she is completely honest with me so I never have to worry about her glossing over something that isn't right. But we had an interesting interaction as she edited Too Many Ghosts.
Every day I read a chapter or bit of a chapter on how to write so I can hone my writing skills that have gotten rusty the last couple of years. Everything I read said you have to keep ratcheting up the ante - throwing another curve - another problem at the heroine. She has to have not only the main adventure going on, but she needs to have personal problems to deal with as well. So I threw in a heart attack for her dad while she is hot on the trail of her missing fiance. When her sister asks her to come home, she is only about two hours behind the man she hasn't seen for over a year and she needs to warn him of the gang that is close on his heels.
She talks to the doctor to see if she can delay coming home for another day, or is her father in danger of dying before she can get there if she does delay? He said they had the patient stabilized and she would probably be safe in delaying.
Nikki didn't like that at all. Now to be fair, Nikki would drop EVERYTHING to get to her father if he'd had a heart attack, so I wondered if she wasn't being a little prejudiced with the heroine's decision. But another reader said the same thing. They both stopped identifying with the character at that point and were disappointed in her.
In my mind she was being perfectly reasonable in delaying if her father's condition was stabilized so she could catch up with her fiance and save him. So perspective is everything. If you perceive a weakness in a character, some flaw that is supposed to make the reader feel some angst for them and it backfires, then what?
Of course, I took out the heart attack. Explaining my reasoning didn't sway my two critics. Now I worry that Dominique (my character) won't be a heroine readers will want to identify with. Have I lost touch with what my readers expect? Have I lost touch with reality?
I've always felt the lives and stories and worlds we create need to parallel our own lives and stories and worlds, but need to have a little more of everything. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe they need to just mirror and reflect our own. How will I know for sure?

1 comment:

Anna Buttimore said...

Hmmm, tricky one. Characters sometimes don't behave the way you need them to for a good story. I think you made the right decision. Could he not have the heart attack a little later? (I love how we get to make such huge decision in our characters' lives!)