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Do authors really own their readers anything? I hadn't thoughts about this idea much until I watched a BookTuber's video called I Hate Trilogies.
While I'm not sure I agreed with the whole video, one quote in particular did catch me off guard.
"Publishing a book is actually a pretty pretensions thing to do. Hear me out. Your saying that you think your work is so powerful, so heartfelt, so emotional, so good, that people should go out, and spend money to buy a glued together packet of your ideas, and then spend time to read those ideas." ~Ariel Bissett
I had never thought of books this way. As a reader and aspiring author, books are something beautiful, something to be loved. And authors? They're people to be praised and admired, people to be impressed by, people who are great thinkers and lovers, heroes of communication through fiction.
But the more I thought about it, the more I agreed with the above quote. Authors are asking a lot of their readers. They're asking to be heard, to be well listened to. Teens are not generally very great at listening. So when readers show us enough respect, admiration, and devotion to listen to a 50 to 85 thousand word peak into our inner thoughts and imagination, we, as writers, had better respect them enough to deliver a fantastic story.
And so is born the unwritten writers contract. It's the understanding that exists between reader and writer. The reader will listen to what the writer has to say, and the writer will respect the reader and not break too many rules that the reader takes for granted.
Here are some ways authors can respect their readers:
1) Respect Their Time
Readers could be doing anything but reading your book. They probably should be doing homework or getting much needed sleep, but here they are, reading. So don't waste their time. Don't but in paragraphs of description when a sentence would do. Don't drag a book out far past its natural ending, and don't drag your series on to book 12 when it should have stopped at book 6. (You can read a whole blog post on dragged out series here.)
2) Respect Their Intellect
Readers are smart. They can figure some stuff out for themselves. After you have a big plot twist, you don't have to go back and explain how everything works. Let the reader trust the the twist is plausible. Let them figure out the details for themselves. In the same way, you don't have to show the reader your characters entire tragic back-story to make the reader believe the character is tortured. Just show them a few scraps and let them piece the rest together.
3) Give Them What They Expect
I'm not saying a book needs to be predictable. Not at all! But by the time a reader is half way into a contemporary thriller, they're expecting it to stay a contemporary thriller. If Aliens suddenly invade and take all the parents, your reader is going to feel disrespected. (They'll also feel like they're in a Jimmy Neutron show, but that's beside the point)
4) Be Consistent
One thing that really bothered me about Allegiant by Veronica Roth was how totally different the last book felt from the first two books. The world totally shifted, and I did not like the third book nearly as much. I thought I knew what I was getting myself into, and instead was handed this totally different novel. Veronica Roth lost a lot of my respect as a reader because of Allegiant, and I probably won't be picking up her future novels.
5) Keep Your Word
If you say a character is dead, only to have them reappear half way through the book, your reader isn't going to trust future character's death. And if you keep doing that, you'll cheapen all characters' death as well as making the reader doubt you.
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Broken promises like that not only breaks your readers trust in you, it also takes away their suspension of disbelief. They can't let themselves totally fall into a story because at any moment you might tell them it's all a character's dream or bring zombies down on your honest coming of age story.
The five points above are my five articles of an authors unwritten contact with the reader. When the author doesn't uphold their end of the contract, they lose my faith and trust. As a reader, the authors that I trust are the ones the deliver great stories time and time again. They can write about different characters and still write well. They don't hid genre shifts in the middle of their books and don't bring characters that are dead back to life.
The authors that can do that are the authors I trust not only now, but in the future. They're the authors whose books I'll pre-order and tweet about. They're the authors who will become favorites and build a following. They're the authors that stand out from the crowd
That's it for today's post. What do you think? Are there books or authors that lost your trust? Are there key parts of the Unwritten Author's Contract I left out? As a reader, when do you feel betrayed by a book? As a writer, do you think these points are too limiting? What do you think of the quote and YouTube video? Leave a comment and share your ideas!Also, if you have any posts you'd like to see, let me know!
If you're looking for another thought provoking video that inspired this week's post, here's one by the same YouTuber, Ariel Bissett, on what it takes to be a favorite author.
Also, just a reminder that February's Teen Book Chat is tonight at 8:00 PM Eastern Time. Follow the hashtag #TBkChat!
Thanks for reading and have a great week!