Mar 3, 2013
From a Reader's Perspective
Not too long ago, I wrote a post as a "Perplexed Reviewer," as I was reading a book that had great qualities but also harbored noticeable weaknesses. I had really hit a wall in how I was going to review this book, because while I loved the premise, the writing style, and the whole concept of the storyline, there were elements that I felt could have used a little tweaking.
I don't believe any book deserves a wholly negative review ~ a novel is probably one of the more difficult creative jobs to accomplish, and I believe every book has something to be desired. So, I changed my system, rating each element individually. Now, all these aspects create the story as a whole, but as a character-driven reader, the most important and essential components for me include character development and the growth of the relationships between those characters. They are the reason the story is being told ~ the driving force ~ the catalysts.
I bring this up because reading teaches you more about writing than I think actually writing does. From a Reader's Perspective, you are on the outside looking in, you are the one the story is being told to, and the way you perceive it is way more important than what the author intends. Which is why, I'll say again, a novel (worth reading) is a difficult thing to accomplish.
I can't say enough how important it is to have well developed characters and believable/relatable interactions between them. As a reader, I want to get to know the characters; I want to hear their individual voices and personalities, and I want to see them grow. I don't want to be "told" who they are and what little quirks they have; I want to be "shown" through their dialogue, thought processes, and actions. The most impressionable characters are those who we learn about little by little as the story progresses - as we read about their reactions and how they handle themselves. There's nothing more irksome than a character having an inner monologue with themselves in the very beginning, bearing their soul about who they are, how they react to certain situations, and what traits they possess. I don't want to hear about it! I want to see it for myself.
In regards to relationships, being expected to believe that "love at first sight" exists is just ludicrous. I can believe in instant attraction because, hey, we've all come across those beautiful people that we'd like to get to know ASAP. But as far as true love goes... That's something that's earned by both parties and strengthened through time and trust. As readers, we need to see why one person has fallen in love with another ~ what has led this character to feel this deep-rooted emotion? And that leads us back around to character development, because honestly, the readers need to fall in love at the same time the characters to, and in order to accomplish that, writers need to create tangible and relatable characters.
It's a vicious and beautiful circle, but probably one of the most important mountains to climb when writing a story that will leave readers reeling. People don't relate to stories ~ they relate to people, and when you're writing a novel, I think that all starts with character development which, ultimately, leads to that breathtaking and dramatic relationship growth that we all love so much.
Maybe I'm just blowing smoke, because I've never finished a novel, but I am working on one and I have read a lot of them, so I like to think I have at least an idea of what a good story needs to maintain in order to reach someone on an intimate or personal level. It sounds a little extreme using those words, but reading is a very personal endeavor - writing, even more so.
So note-to-self and other writers: When you're bearing your soul, pouring your heart out while creating a black-and-white work of art on a once blank page ~ think of your characters first and foremost... Once they are alive and kicking, they are the ones who make the story happen.
Happy Reading Everyone :)