Today’s blog was sparked by a tweet from Kev St John (@Kev_away)
He had given his work in progress to a Beta Reader who didn’t like one character because she wasn’t a good friend. He couldn’t believe this response.
This character is supposed to be a bad friend. That was the point.
I had a similar response to a character cheating on his partner.
The Beta Reader said people wouldn’t like this character. Of course I didn’t change this part of the story. It highlights that the character who is being cheated on, has a bad relationship. It’s conflict. That’s what stories are made of.
I think this misunderstanding of what storytelling is about comes from certain readers. Several smaller American publishers go to great lengths to itemise what’s in a book, including normal story conventions like adultery.
As an Australian, I don’t get it.
It’s the equivalent of buying take away coffee and seeing WARNING – HOT CONTENTS on the lid. It’s unnecessary.
As adults, we expect to be surprised and challenged by what we read. If we already know what to expect in a book, then why read it? The same goes for any art form. I spent years enjoying the television program, Masters of Sex, as it explored the pain, joy and everything in between of many relationships, including an adulterous one.
But I’m a grown up. I know about life.
This fear of story has also come up in reviews to books.
I released a Romance novella, Midnight Angel, over the holiday period and was surprised to see the first two Goodreads reviewers, who loved the book, give the whole plot away. While I appreciated their high scores, I wondered why they did this without saying there was a spoiler alert. Why would anyone want to read the book when they know the whole plot?
Similarly, my Nate and Cameron series of books are about a man learning to love second best. Traditional Romance readers were split in their reviews. They either loved or hated the books.
One reviewer freaked out because there was an unforeseen twist in the plot.
And she had no problem criticising me for adding something non-conventional to a Romance story. She went on to tell me that the book should have been categorised differently. Seriously?
This is a century where powerful tales will need to be told. And the last thing we need are readers scared of tales that open them up to new concepts just because they want safe stories.