That’s a quote from Simon Van Booy in the September 2019 issue of Writer’s Digest in his article “The Big Idea: Becoming a Multigenre Master.” Of course, that is a great focus for writers. It’s imperative to creating compelling plots, believable characters, and resonating themes in our work.
If I switch from writer to reader mode, I’d say that we are looking for authenticity and truth in fiction that we can bring back to reality. The key is that a good story allows us to draw our truth from the story. It goes back to the concept that therapists and psychologists refer to as “planting the seed.” We all want to believe that our brilliant thoughts and insights are our own, and are more likely to accept them if we believe it was our idea. That’s why we learn more from pain and mistakes than from warnings. That’s why advice is rejected or ignored when somebody states it plainly. We want the freedom to make our own decisions and, if necessary, our own mistakes as well. That’s human nature. We want to be the master of ourselves. Of course we rarely do have that level of control because we can’t do anything about other people or circumstances, but confronting that discrepancy is matter for another blog. Today, it’s about how we’re more willing to take the messages from fiction than we are from non-fiction, or even from reality.
My best selling novel before I switched to sci-fi was Move, Book One of The Tanger Falls Mystery. It’s a paranormal mystery about a young woman who fears change. She stays in a rut of push and pull against change until she’s passed over for a promotion and, in desperation, unknowingly makes a deal with a djinn. The problem is that the djinn has his own agenda, which solves problems of one nature by creating problems of another nature.
The books in The Earthside Box Set are about the different ways that people deal with pain. It starts with one, close knit family dealing with dementia, and branches out from there to show how an extraordinary event affects how they deal with the things causing the problems and pain disrupting their lives. These books are receiving good reviews and consistent sales.
I’ve also released Joy on the Journey, a follow up to my first published book, a couple of years ago. Do you know how many copies I’ve sold of it? None. Not one single copy. It does ok on KDP giveaway days, but to date not a single copy of that book has been purchased, and every review request I’ve sent out has been declined. It’s still languishing for a review on Reader’s Favorite, too. I just can’t justify dropping money for an express review of a book that nobody is buying or reading.
Why? It’s non-fiction. Nobody wants to hear the lessons I learned from a hard season in life in exposition form. They’d rather draw it out for themselves in The Tanger Falls Mystery and The Earthside Box Set, even though they cover the same things in different ways. I talk about change and dealing with pain in all of these novels, but the fictionalized versions are received while the non-fiction version is ignored.
Don’t get me wrong. I love writing and reading fiction best, so I’m no different than my own readers in that regard. That’s why I understand this phenomenon so well. I’m the baby of my family, so I grew up with everybody having authority over me, so naturally I’m a rebellious about people “telling me how it is.” The lessons are more powerful when I draw them out see how it applies to my own life. That’s why I don’t do author interviews where they only talk about me and what inspired my books. I want to grant readers the grace to take their own messages from my writing. The freedom to interpret meaning through the filter of your life experience is a powerful blessing. I’ll do interviews talking about the book and characters, but if it’s all about me; forget it. Nobody cares about the writer and how they want to change the world, nor should they. Good writing should inspire you to change your way. There are enough people bossing us around in real life. Writers need to give readers a break and grant them the grace to be the master of their own domain, even if they choose to escape it in your world. Don’t be a tyrant.
I suppose authenticity and truth are the main point in both reading and writing. The difference is that the writer has to be intentional and creative in expressing it in subliminal ways so the reader can hear the message they need to hear. And readers need to go in with open hearts and minds to accept whatever the Spirit is leading them to discover through our work.
That’s all today. I hope you have a safe and Happy 4th of July, and a wonderful rest of the week.