Friday, May 23, 2014

First (Objective) Feedback

As encouraging as the positive praise I’ve gotten from family and friends has been, it’s not impartial.  But I’ve started getting feedback from readers I don’t know, and I thought I’d share some of that with you (along with my own thoughts.)
    Certain Hypothetical has already received a couple of reviews from readers who won a copy through my recent goodreads giveaway (and I thank them for taking the time and effort to write those reviews.)  They appear to have enjoyed the book, and both rated it four out of five stars – which is gratifying, especially as this was my debut novel.
    Brent called it a “clever story” while Beth said “The characters were a bit shallow on the introduction but they were likable. There was enough suspense to keep you turning the pages and I liked the ending.”
    And Beth’s review raised a point I want specifically want to address – she says she wished there had been more “pre-explanation” because it had taken her a while to understand what the story was about.  But she did still “get” it and found the story interesting.
    Now, there are different ways of telling stories, and I’m not saying any particular way is better than others.  But the way I prefer is akin to throwing the reader in the deep end.  That means a steeper learning curve, but also, I hope, a richer experience and a book that can be appreciated on re-reading.
    I understand that this may be off-putting to some readers, but if I’m going to err (and I likely have and will continue to err) I’d rather err on the side of not explaining enough.
    Of course, I try to write along a very fine line – to tell a story that can be enjoyed as a casual read, but that has a lot of layers for those who want to dig.  That’s what I’m aiming for, anyway, and Beth’s response tells me I’m at least getting close to the target.
    I’ve also received some private (and anonymous) comments from a couple people who’d read the excerpt of Millennium Crash – one who didn’t care for it and one who enjoyed it and was looking forward to reading the rest of the book.
    The first said it seemed “excessively wordy” and needed to be “tightened up and superfluous words eliminated” and complained some of the writing was “especiall[y] clunky” from their perspective.
    But the one who liked it said “the writing style flows smoothly and the author’s descriptions bring the scenes vividly to life” and “it is easy to be swept into the story!”
    Which goes to show, I suppose, how much a reader’s opinion of the writing style depends on whether or not they like the story and the characters.  (Rather than the other way around as many people seem to think.)
    Both of these readers found the premise of the story interesting, so it seems the determining factor in whether or not they liked the story boiled down to the characters – and not how well those characters were realized (though I believe that’s important) but to whether or not they liked them.
    The one who didn’t like what they’d read didn’t care for the main character of Anya.  “I don’t particularly like Anya, as she’s very condescending.”
    But the person who was enjoying the story said “Anya’s chapter was definitely quite a hook” and the “characters all drew me in.”
    Personally, I’m not interested in writing from the point-of-view of a character I don’t like.  But my liking a character, or even doing a good job of writing them, isn’t going to make a reader like that character.  Some people won’t – I can’t help that.  Others will appreciate them, and I have a responsibility to those readers to portray these characters to the best of my ability and to be consistent with them.

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