|'Protect Your Spirit', by MLHolton, 1991|
There is a certain inevitability that a writer will have a reading critic who hates your work.
I encountered this last year when I learned that an assigned book reviewer for a local newspaper was intending to publish a disappointing '3-STAR'
review of my latest novel.
It would have been the first '3-STAR'
review after numerous '4 to 5 STAR'
reviews from destinations as far flung as the UK, Germany and California.
Naturally, it was upsetting. It hurt.
I could not understand why the author would bother writing a review if she didn't like the book. So, naturally, I asked her why she did.
She responded quickly saying that it was no reflection on me as the author, but rather, a response to the work. (---huh?)
When I queried further, she got defensive and said that she writes reviews for her
audience not mine. (---huh?)
That was an odd thing to say. What became apparent was a telling lack of the 'meeting-of-the-minds'. We were not going to
'click', then or ever.
But my writer's mind could not let it go
... I wanted to understand WHY
there was no bend
in her opinion. Yes, I understand her opinion is her prerogative. But equally, there seemed no desire on her part to understand
how and why I had written this work. There seemed no basic
interest to empathize - and this lack of empathy raised more questions than it answered ...
The bigger issue soon became, for me, about a writer's insatiable desire to be liked.
Writers want our words to resonate with our readers. We want them to 'get it'
: to affirm our perspective, to applaud our insights and efforts. At a very primal human level, we want them to 'like', not only our work, but us.
Well, clearly, Life just doesn't work that way. Critics critique: good or bad.
What's more, I know I have my own prejudices and blind spots too.
I do not, as example, care for 'horror'. - (There's quite enough of that in 'real life' : why would anyone want to amplify that in books or film?) -
Because of this dislike, I know I could never write a unbiased review of a work of horror. I know my antipathy would reflect back badly in any review. So, I just wouldn't bother. I also know I am in the minority about the love of this genre. There are far more horror fans
than there are historical fiction fans out there now. This fact invariably leads to the notion of 'popularity' and that quickly leads to the question of Why a Writer Writes
Am I writing to be popular?
No. That's not my aim.
Am I writing to be understood?
This is the most likely.
Novel writing, in particular, allows long-form exposition. It allows authors a chance to draw a large picture for readers of a constructed reality where characters act out their vices and virtues within fixed perimeters. The twists and turns of plot make sense within that invented world. As writers, we are offering a 'whole package'
to readers of our personal vision, unique to our own experience and times. Our finished works represent our singular voice.
Writers generally aim for a kind of universality as chroniclers of the human condition
. - As example, most writers compose with 'a sense of knowing'
of familial relationships. They write with first-hand knowledge of the dynamics between mothers, fathers, daughters, brothers, siblings, sons and grand-parents. We expect readers to resonate with these depictions - not only because they are commonplace - (everyone has a mother and father) -
but because #families
represent the common human framework from which all human life has emerged ... until very recently.
Have you noticed this SHIFT too?
|Emotional Empathy Shift - Example|
There seems a growing propensity amongst a certain crowd to identify with fake 'super-humans' and #scifi #dystopian
plots filled with #alien
They're not as interested in the earth-bound interactions of our common human family
as they are in the antics of their own disenfranchised peers. The reasons for this jarring and fanciful Emotional Empathy SHIFT
are manifold and not really the point of this post.
Even so, this observation does explain, to some degree, the 'off-reading' between the above noted book reviewer and myself. We will not, and perhaps fundamentally, cannot, see 'eye-to-eye'. We may be from the same typographical region of Southern Ontario in Canada. I know that we drink the same tap water from the Great Lake and breathe the same air - but we, as humans, are not 'like-minded'
At core, the element that seems to distinguish our preferred 'likes'
and 'dislikes' seems to be our age. We are separated by decades of generational 'screen' influence and life perspective. Her current lived 'reality' is not my 'reality', anymore than my current lived 'reality' is hers. Call it #AGEISM
if you will.
And yet, this is the point where I start to realize and recognize that perhaps my writing ambition
has, indeed, failed. If I have been able to conjure a believable fictional world filled with engaging characters that she could empathize with, then my writing craft would be as universal
as I had aimed and hoped.
Or, perhaps it's just a lot simpler than that. - I hate horror and nonsensical alienating tropes and she doesn't like my way of writing. We are who we are - at this time and in this place - and that's that.
On a lighter note, I did just receive another 5-star review
.... this time from the southeastern shore of Ireland by delightful, family-loving, Irish novelist, Mary Crowley
So, all's good. Life really does go on - as we like it, or not.
Apropos the above, some #writers
may find this link useful ... > https://selfpublishingadvice.org/finding-the-right-readers-for-your-book/