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The Contract Between Reader and Writer

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...being one of the Rare Occasions in which Rolanni Actually Talks About writing...

For those joining us in mid-semester, the Contract Between Writer and Reader is this: I, the Writer, agree to tell you, the Reader, a lie, hereinafter referred to as a story. You, the Reader, agree to suspend your disbelief in this falsehood until the end of the story, OR until I, the Writer, drop the cake.

That's it; that's the Whole Contract. People occasionally add ancillaries and addendums, to kind of stack the deck in their favor, like with any contract. I submit that those are artificial conditions which serve only to distort the core principal.

For instance, I, the Writer, do not agree to:
1) never kill off a beloved character
2) always provide a H(appy) E(ver) A(fter) ending
3) always write the same book
4) always write the same kind of book

You, the Reader, do not agree to:
#adore everything I write
#finish reading a book that doesn't work for you
#buy a book in a genre you loathe, just because I wrote it

One Writer, indeed, may write across several genres, which would pretty much guarantee numbers 3 and 4, above. This is where it pays Readers to be advertent: If you want, say, a Liaden Universe® novel, and the cover says, oh, "fantasy" or "mystery" -- believe the cover.

As a Reader myself, I find it pays to treat a familiar author writing in a genre other than what I consider to be Their Usual as I would a Brand New Author -- I examine the book, read a few chapters, and decide if I like what I'm seeing enough to buy into the whole fabrication. That's valid; it's well within the realm of the contract; nobody gets mad, or feels betrayed.

If I decide that this particular lie isn't my cuppa, that doesn't mean that the story is wrong*; it doesn't mean that the author has forgotten how to write*, or is jerking fans around* -- it doesn't even mean that the author has sold out*. It means that the author has written a book that isn't to my taste. That's OK; the best of friends sometimes disagree.

Even within genre, a writer can vary the way in which she presents her lies. We here at the Confusion Factory have for instance produced a "car chase novel"** (Agent of Change), a "book where nothing happens"** (Local Custom), "Mills and Boone in space"** (Conflict of Honors), and "kiddie sf"** (Balance of Trade). Sometimes, we tell linear lies; sometimes the story sweeps around in a seeming lazy spiral; sometimes we leapfrog time and space.

These are all valid types of falsehoods and techniques for delivering lies. None of them is inherently "wrong," though they certainly are different.

Now, it may well be that you, the Reader, prefer a story that is more linear, and have no patience with spiraling narratives. That's OK. You, the Reader, are the Sole Judge and Arbiter of what lies you find most amusing. However, the story is not "wrong" because it's not to your taste; it's just -- not to your taste. This is comparable to Rolanni's refusal to allow "sushi" in the same sentence with "dinner."

God, She Knows, sometimes Writers flub. No one is immune to dropping the cake; there are dern few perfect books out there. Every story I've ever written has had at least a few crumbs between the margins. That's OK, too, as long as the Reader can continue to buy into the story. If the writer has really screwed up, and Readers are thrown bodily out of the story, well -- that's covered in the contract. It's a sad event, for the Reader and for the Writer. Writers work really hard to avoid Utter Fumbles, but...we're human beings. Sometimes, we fall. When that happens, about the only thing that can be done is to admit that you screwed up, get up, dust off your jeans, and try again.

To reiterate: The contract between Writer and Reader is a simple, public contract, guaranteeing the Writer the ability to write the stories she wishes to write and the Reader to read those stories she wishes to read.


--------
*excerpts taken from my email files

**excerpts taken from rejection letters and/or reviews

Comments

( 40 comments — Leave a comment )
sartorias
May. 4th, 2008 03:27 pm (UTC)
Good topic.

I think I would define the contract differently, but overall: yeah. Word.
jaylake
May. 4th, 2008 03:47 pm (UTC)
What she said. Good thinking.
rolanni
May. 4th, 2008 04:33 pm (UTC)
I think I would define the contract differently

What's your definition?
sartorias
May. 4th, 2008 04:51 pm (UTC)
I don't think my personal definition is relevant because I believe that in a sense, all our definitions will vary--not just writers but readers. People come to books with different experiences and expectations. What I think really useful is your notion that the contract exists, and that one try to consider it from both angles.

Even then, I don't really know how to translate that into practice--so much process is subconscious. But my instinct is that being aware of it--reminded of it--is in general a good thing.
growlycub
May. 4th, 2008 03:53 pm (UTC)
On HEA and killing off of beloved characters, I would like to offer a suggestion if I may. Please communicate to your publisher not to market a book as a romance or romantic something or other if it doesn't have a HEA.

I'm not saying that the writer cannot do such things, but that the publisher should be careful not to label the book in such a way that it raises expectations in the reader, which are then either not fulfilled or, worse, completely blown to smithereens.

Labeling/marketing is part of the contract and helps readers decide whether a story by an author we are not familiar with or with whom we are indeed familiar might be to our tastes.

I'm one of the readers who's very allergic to this mislabeling of which there seems to be an increasing amount lately, because romance sells, beaucoup bucks are made off of it.

While the term 'romance' may be interpreted in different ways and has been in the past, in current publishing terms it denotes a very specific story line, one that does include a HEA. If there isn't one, then a book should not be labeled as such.

If it is, negative reader reaction is programmed.

I'm not necessarily talking about you personally, but writers and book labeling in general. Major pet peeve of mine, sorry.

Maybe I'm too narrow in my tastes, but I've recently picked up several books that were labeled 'romance' or 'romantic' that were so far from what I expected from that label, that I could not help but be extremely disappointed. It was not a pleasant experience and I really don't want to repeat it.

With Duainfey in particular, I see that there is no label on the Baen website, but the synopsis describes a seemingly standard Regency plot albeit with some paranormal elements. Perhaps the label Dark Fantasy that you have used on occasion would indeed be helpful to counteract the potentially misleading synopsis.

Anyway, I may have offered some insights into why you have gotten the negative feedback you quoted.
rolanni
May. 4th, 2008 04:02 pm (UTC)
Labeling/marketing is part of the contract and helps readers decide whether a story by an author we are not familiar with or with whom we are indeed familiar might be to our tastes.

I respectfully disagree. The Writer can tell the publisher what they think the book is. But Marketing is under, alas, no obligation whatsoever to listen to what the Writer says. The actions of Marketing cannot be included in the contract between Writer and Reader.

If you, the Reader, have a problem with misleading publisher labeling, then the best thing to do, honest, is write to the publisher and outline your concerns.


growlycub
May. 4th, 2008 05:21 pm (UTC)
"But Marketing is under, alas, no obligation whatsoever to listen to what the Writer says."

That is understood and it is indeed regrettable. The Writer can then only do what you have done and use other venues to communicate to the Reader that "Beware, this is different from what you were lead to expect!"

Also, regrettably, you will not reach everybody and be confronted with the dashed reader expectation. One can hope, perhaps, that sharing said negative feedback due to disappointed expectations with the publisher may (or may not) eventually lead to an appreciation on the part of marketing that 'something has gone wrong'; that marketing has had a negative influence, quite the opposite of what was wished for, on reader happiness and current and future author happiness aka satisfaction in ones' work and ability to pay the mortgage and feed the cats.

And I have most definitely and in no uncertain terms informed the publishers of my dismay and disappointment and will continue to do so when it's appropriate and connected to (mis)labeling.

Another thing I noticed on the Baen site is that there is no mention (or if there is I haven't found it in casual perusal) that Duainfey is but half of a story. Again, I feel marketing might have something to do with that lack, but this also has lead to Reader disgruntlement from what you wrote in past comments here.

A similar example of this can be found with Bujold's 1st Sharing Knife story that was cut in half (Beguilement and Legacy published a year apart) due to length with some rather interesting reader reaction, much of it of the unhappy variety.

I understand why you feel you cannot include this dimension in the contract, but I do disagree and will liken it to your 'sushi is not dinner' example.

If a friend invites you for dinner and then serves sushi, you will feel that dinner was mislabeled, that no dinner was served. Your friend has created expectations that he has not fulfilled. But it was his wife who decided that sushi should be considered dinner.

While it was not the friend's direct infraction, still your expectations for dinner were not fulfilled. Whom would you address first? Well, that's where the example breaks down since I figure you are polite and would most likely not complain about a dinner among friends (although if all was sushi, I would offer to buy you dinner somewhere else, being also of the persuasion that sushi is NOT dinner :).

Writers will be linked with their writing as well as the marketing labels the Publisher chooses. Whether this is always fair is possibly not the question. Fact of the matter is, the Writer offers to sell said lie via a Publisher, the Reader buys said lie due to the label or past experience with the writer.

There is always expectation involved. Without expectations there would not be a sale in the first place.

Obviously, you feel the readers who have written you have expectations you think they ought not to have had and you seem frustrated by said expectations. If these are just a few comments of many and most are positive, then you may have a point, although one can never please everybody and some negative feedback is to be expected although it need not be happily accepted.

If the majority of the feedback is of the negative variety, then there may be a significant problem with detrimental implications for the future both for the Writer and the Publisher. It's still possible that the fault lies solely in Reader expectation, but I'd have to posit that perhaps it is less likely to be the case.

To this Reader it seems that most writers creates a brand and s/he will be known for a certain style and theme of his or her writing.
growlycub
May. 4th, 2008 05:21 pm (UTC)

Something that works very well in romance with its very many subgenres and writing styles is the use of pseudonyms by authors who have established a brand of a particular kind and who then choose to explore a new subgenre or even genre without misleading their readers into expecting more of the established brand.

See Jayne Ann Krentz aka Jayne Castle, Nora Roberts aka J.D. Robb, and Barbara Samuel who is also Ruth Wind just to name a few. Theresa Weir who gave up writing romance and now doesn't even mention the fact that she wrote quite a number of very good romance novels on her new Anne Frasier website dedicated to her suspense novels.

Most writers who decide to write a new and different book from the established brand do not conceal the fact that they write under other names, they use the different names to reduce the incidence of disappointed expectations in their established readers.

This suggestion may or may not appeal or be practical, but it may offer one solution to the frustrated feelings on both sides.
rolanni
May. 4th, 2008 06:18 pm (UTC)
I'll note that the examples of reader feedback given in my original post were taken from comments received about books in the Liaden Universe®. I think we "sold out" when we published the Crystal books. I always wonder -- to whom does one "sell out" and are there Large, Unmarked Bills involved?

As far as I know, Duainfey is at the moment only available in e-arc, which is essentially our submission draft, and was offered for sale before revision. (No, this does not mean we rewrote it to be a Frothy Confection(tm), but it does mean that there were changes which may address reader chagrin. Or not.)

If you will, Duainfey is an anti-Liaden book. The proposal for it and for Longeye was circulating for several years before Meisha Merlin went belly-up, because the authors decided that they should widen their range. Had things gone as planned, there would have been a clear differentiation to help Reader expectations: Liaden books = Meisha Merlin; fantasies = SomeOtherPress.

What happened, of course, is that Baen acquired the fantasies, and Baen Webscriptions acquired the entire Liaden Universe® in electronic format. These are both Good Things, and I'm not going to complain about staying in print or being able to live indoors. Both of which were undecided last April.

Another thing I noticed on the Baen site is that there is no mention (or if there is I haven't found it in casual perusal) that Duainfey is but half of a story.

That's interesting, given that they knowingly bought a duology, and the bookseller blurb on Amazon clearly indicates that Longeye will be coming along RSN.
growlycub
May. 4th, 2008 06:34 pm (UTC)
Oh. Having seen your earlier post on Duainfey reactions with similar commentary, I assumed these were directed to it.

Sorry about that. You are well entitled to bring up the usual about assume now. :)

And naturally that all confounds my main argument about brand, label and expectations. Ouch.

I admit myself baffled about the 'sold out' in regards to the Crystal book. Not so much as to who 'they' are, more as to why the reader felt the books were so different from other Liaden books. Was there an explanation attached to the comment?

If anything I could possibly have seen such a comment directed towards Local Custom from readers who are familiar with the AoC sequence.

Btw, I went to Amazon to see their labeling and found Duainfey listed under Epic Fantasy, whereas Local Custom and Conflict of Honors are listed under Romance.

Which fact then leads to the realization that even if the Publisher gets it right, the book sellers will have their own ideas.

Maybe you had it right after all. Where does Writer responsibility for Reader expectation end. Ponder.
rolanni
May. 4th, 2008 11:47 pm (UTC)
I should have been clearer. Unfortunately "selling out" and "forgot how to write" are two of the more common ...complaints... upset readers reveal to the authors they're upset with.

The reader who felt we'd "sold out" on the Crystal books had come to the series through Local Custom, Scout's Progress and Conflict of Honors and considered that the rest of the books in the Agent of Change arc were barely readable, even though there was still enough "wit and dialog" to keep her going. In the Crystal books, however, we had "sold out" and were no longer writing books she considered readable.

growlycub
May. 5th, 2008 01:53 am (UTC)
Interesting. As a romance reader who read Local Custom and Scout's Progress first, I was not exactly thrilled to get to the AoC arc either.

Just not fun to be emotionally invested in these characters (the strength of the emotional investment is a testament to your writing skills) and then poof they are all gone. Not all your fault obviously, since they were side-books and came later, but I was feeling distinctly unhappy there for a while. Not enough not to buy them all and the chap books anyway, though. :)

That sentiment with regard to the Crystal books is really very intriguing to me, because if anything they are more 'romantic' than the main arc books.

But it was wrenching to know that there would not be a HEA for Jela and Cantra, and still hoping that there would be, somehow.

I can see a romance reader not liking that one bit at all, but calling it 'selling out'? To what? Story/universe continuity? Although I'd have happily forgiven you for breaking that particular rule in this particular case... :)

As you say below. the internet has been a blessing and a curse in writer-reader relations, and I've stopped buying certain authors because I just cannot separate their online/real life personae from their writing any longer, but it's still endlessly fascinating to see how we all react to the same books.
(Anonymous)
May. 6th, 2008 01:39 am (UTC)
Do all characters want HEA endings? To my mind, the ending of Jela and Cantra's story was had the ends they chose - Jela chose a good death fighting the enemy, while Cantra who started so alone, lived long and created a family and a clan. They essentially saved the universe and started a new one. I liked that ending...

Ever after isn't always a blessing. I just reread Jo Walton's second Sulien book (The King's Name, I think - good books) and one of the characters was cursed to die old, long after everyone had forgotten her.

B. O'Brien
rolanni
May. 6th, 2008 01:57 am (UTC)
Do all characters want HEA endings?

In the Romance genre, it's the readers who often want a HEA ending, to the point where, sometimes and IMHO, it's forced on characters who would be better off kissing sweetly one!last! time! and going their separate ways.

...which is why I write SF, mostly....
jelazakazone
May. 4th, 2008 04:31 pm (UTC)
I have not read your comments as carefully as I should have perhaps, given the distractions of two kids running in circles around me (literally), but it occurred to me that the Greeks defined tragedy as a story with a sad ending and a comedy as a story with a happy ending. That was the main difference between them. It seems to me that your definition of romance fits under that particular category of comedy.
kalimeg
May. 4th, 2008 03:55 pm (UTC)
It's amazing how many people want the same story over and over, and how many demand that Resurrection is Required for The Beloved.

Gordy Dickson said he took so much flack for killing the cat in Time Storm that he actually brought it back in the next book.

:: shaking head ::
mela_lyn
May. 4th, 2008 06:28 pm (UTC)
Thanks. Di Francis posted this on her blog and I enjoyed reading it. I actually stumbled onto a few different articles that touched on this point in some way. I'm blogging about my thoughts (to no one in particular) and I've linked this entry. I hope you don't mind. If you do, I'll put it out. Thank you! -Missy, who wants to be a writer when she 'grows up'
seachanges
May. 4th, 2008 06:50 pm (UTC)
Word. Particularly about the killing of characters.
sethb
May. 4th, 2008 08:18 pm (UTC)
I want to disagree with the final reiteration. The contract does not guarantee the Reader the ability to read the stories she wishes to read (since that can't happen if the Write chose not to write them). Rather, it guarantees the Reader the ability not to read the stories she doesn't wish to read.
bookmobiler
May. 4th, 2008 10:53 pm (UTC)
Crumbs
A couple of caveats.

"OR until I, the Writer, drop the cake."

I read in a lot of different genres, and a lot of different authors, some whom write across different genres. I have to tell you from personal experience that its quite possible for the reader to drop the cake too.
It usually doesn't have anything to do with the writer. Life sometimes gets in the way of fiction.

"#buy a book in a genre you loathe, just because I wrote it"

I've occasionally done this. (No, not any of yours.) I regard this as enlightened self-interest. Writers need to sell books to keep writing. If they starve to death for lack of sales, they'll never get a chance to write another book I might like.
keristor
May. 5th, 2008 05:02 pm (UTC)
Re: Crumbs
"#buy a book in a genre you loathe, just because I wrote it"

I've done that too. There are some writers who I am confident I will enjoy even in genres I dislike, I'd probably buy their shopping lists. And the same is true of some musicians. There are others (writers and musicians) who, like you, I'll buy their work just to keep them living in the hope that they'll produce something else I like.
alfreda89
May. 8th, 2008 09:14 pm (UTC)
Re: Crumbs
"#buy a book in a genre you loathe, just because I wrote it"

I've occasionally done this. (No, not any of yours.) I regard this as enlightened self-interest. Writers need to sell books to keep writing. If they starve to death for lack of sales, they'll never get a chance to write another book I might like.


I do the same thing -- including chapbooks from my very favorites. This is part of my "I trust you not to write anything under your name that you are ashamed of" pact with the writer. Either they had to get something off their chests, or they need Money Right Now (MRN tm) and if I ever want to know what happens to XX, I'd better buy YY.

I no longer feel obligated to buy a book new in hardback. My budget can't do that right now. But I will use the library/used bookstores to read the book, and I will post a review if I liked it and then buy the paperback when it comes out. (No, I rarely warn people about a bad book, and never in writing. You make enemies that way, and crush people's incomes. This is why I am not a professional reviewer. So sue me.)

If I am burned (writer makes a U turn and changes everything I love about his/her work) I will wait for reports before buying the next book. I will, however, turn the writer's books face-out when they're new and always if they are not an A-money list writer. So people who like the new books can find them, thus generating income for the writer, who may return for another book I'll like.

This technique can finally defeat you. I love the work of Elizabeth Peters. I even bought her in hardback for a time. But her publisher told her the Vicky Bliss and Amelia Peabody books sell best, so that's all she's writing. And the Peabodies are becoming too dense for me (when I'm in the sick mode) and I am behind and not trying to catch up.

If you could have told me that there could be too much Amelia Peabody or Anita Blake, I would have been surprised. But there it is -- although I will pick up other things the writers do!

mbarker
May. 5th, 2008 12:46 am (UTC)
Do you mean that three to four years ago (or more) when you started writing this book that I now hold in my hands, you didn't predict exactly what would excite and interest me? And you went ahead and spent a year or so of your time writing and revising, another couple of years pushing it through the publication process, and then waiting for it to actually get out to me -- and now I've failed to get my hours of titillation out of it, so how dare you have done all of that?

Let me see. You've invested a couple of years of time, right? And I've invested the cost of a dinner or so, and maybe a few hours of time? And based on that, I have the right to berate you? There's something askew in that balance sheet.

There is something amazing about the notion that if I, the reader, pick up something and don't appreciate it, that you, the writer, did something wrong. And that you should fix it, forthwith!

Write what you want, and need, to write. Readers can indeed pick and choose from what is out there.

And no doubt will gripe and groan, since that seems to be one of the main uses we have for our new communications modes. Not like the old days when you couldn't hardly reach an author without going through the publisher and enclosing an SASE.
rolanni
May. 5th, 2008 01:07 am (UTC)
Do you mean that three to four years ago (or more) when you started writing this book that I now hold in my hands, you didn't predict exactly what would excite and interest me?

Now, that's an interesting point, because, honestly? When I'm writing a story, I'm usually not thinking about you, or about any reader-or-class-of-readers. I'm thinking about the story. I think that's a good thing, myself. There may be those who argue that one should never lose sight of one's audience.

There is something amazing about the notion that if I, the reader, pick up something and don't appreciate it, that you, the writer, did something wrong.

You've been part of the discussion of "how this could be a tighter book" over at theo_waitley. The implication from the originator of the thread being that the current story is "wrong" because they're bored with it and it could be a "tighter" -- i.e. "different, less boring to me" -- if only the writers would "fix" the "problem."

Me, I don't see a problem. I think the story's going fine. Silly writer.

Not like the old days when you couldn't hardly reach an author without going through the publisher and enclosing an SASE.

There was something to be said for only hearing from people who were passionate enough one way or the other about your work to take the trouble to hunt up a couple stamps. :)

Seriously, as has oft been said: The good thing about the internet is that it makes it possible to get more reader feedback. And, the bad thing about the internet is, of course, that it makes it possible to get more reader feedback. And it does bear recalling that you can't please all of the people all of the time...
davidbcoe
May. 5th, 2008 01:27 am (UTC)
Great post, Sharon. States nicely something I've been trying to articulate for years.
groblek
May. 5th, 2008 01:58 am (UTC)
Well put. And as with others, I particularly agree with the bit about killing off beloved characters. Though one pet peeve of mine is when an author kills off a beloved character and then doesn't have it impact the story/other characters/etc hardly at all. If I'm going to get hit with the emotional blow involved in reading about the death of a character I liked, I expect it to have some point or further impact on the storyline. That said, I won't claim it's a bad story for it, just not to my taste, though if it's a regular thing, I'll tend to stop reading that author.
I do find that if an author makes it to my "must read" list, I will buy their books even if they're in a genre that I usually dislike, because more often than not, I find I still end up liking the books. But then for me as a reader, the primary thing I want is a good story. Setting, characters, genre, etc are all just details - if you know how to tell a good story, I'll probably like your work despite variations of styles and genre.
romsfuulynn
May. 5th, 2008 02:22 am (UTC)
Yes, except
____
For instance, I, the Writer, do not agree to:
1) never kill off a beloved character
2) always provide a H(appy) E(ver) A(fter) ending
3) always write the same book
4) always write the same kind of book

You, the Reader, do not agree to:
#adore everything I write
#finish reading a book that doesn't work for you
#buy a book in a genre you loathe, just because I wrote it
______

On the whole, as a reader I would agree this is the contract, with the exception mentioned that things tagged as "genre romance" should have some semblance of a happy ending.

On the other hand, I'm considering a tag in librarything "addl" for "another damn dead lover".

There are a large number of mystery series where a husband/boyfriend who has been developed over a number of books is suddenly killed off, and while I support the absolute right of the author to do this, I have gotten to the point of saying "not again."
(Anonymous)
May. 5th, 2008 02:59 pm (UTC)
Reader Contract
I always felt that as a reader, my half of the contract was to determine if the book was something I would read it AGAIN.
With all your books (exception: Low Port), I have never been disappointed.
With other authors I have been disgusted to the extent that even though I previously purchased many books in a series, I refuse to buy new releases, and have even left library books unfinished. After a while, the author will figure out they screwed up. At very latest when the royalty numbers come back...
muehe
May. 5th, 2008 07:13 pm (UTC)
Too many people bitching about the way you write? Sucks to be you!
Sorry, my sense of humor never did grow up.
Quit read their stupid emails and get back to writing my stories.
baobrien
May. 5th, 2008 07:43 pm (UTC)
I've been thinking about this myself since reading all those complaints in the Theo Waitley community.

A reader MIGHT be right to complain that they're not getting what they want IF they had magic rings that could take them to Liad or to Narnia or Charn or to other worlds of our choice, and go to a library or bookstore there to buy histories and biographies related to our favorite characters. "I'm angry, I went all that way and the bookstore was out of biographies of Atha ap Gren." I'd like to have one of those rings and the ability to buy books that don't exist in our reality. I'd like to learn more about the eras in Deryni history that haven't been written about yet, and learn about Jela and Cantra's child, and what happens as Tor An and Cantra build Korval... and much else.

Since we don't have those magic rings:
1) The only way we can get stories is for the authors to have the ideas and do the work to put them on paper
2) The authors must really love the stories to do that work when it doesn't necessarily provide enough $$ to provide both insurance and catfood without an extra day job
3) If the authors chose to stop writing stories, our door into that universe generally closes. Done/gone/no more.

Enough complaints! We can wish for more and faster and provide feedback, but the complaints are no fun to read...

B. O'Brien

rolanni
May. 6th, 2008 01:54 am (UTC)
"I'm angry, I went all that way and the bookstore was out of biographies of Atha ap Gren." I'd like to have one of those rings and the ability to buy books that don't exist in our reality.

Man, I'd kill for library privileges at the University of Solcintra...
(Anonymous)
May. 6th, 2008 04:04 pm (UTC)
You, the Reader, do not agree to:
#adore everything I write
#finish reading a book that doesn't work for you
#buy a book in a genre you loathe, just because I wrote it
Actually, I find that I read a particular writer because I "adore" their style of writing. So, along with other postings, I will buy a book that is in a genre I loathe because this author holds my interest no matter what they write. And I will finish reading a book that doesn't work for me because I always learn more about that author's world view.. and it makes me think. So, mainly it's writers that don't work for me, not books. Jenny from WA
uneasy_spirit
May. 6th, 2008 11:17 pm (UTC)
Wait, people write you to tell you they don't like your book? What on earth for? Do they think you've got another version sitting around that'd be more to their liking?

These people must have a great deal more time than I have.

(Here via arcaedia)
rolanni
May. 6th, 2008 11:30 pm (UTC)
Wait, people write you to tell you they don't like your book?

The internet makes many things Very Easy. Happily, the people who write to tell us that they do like our books far outweigh the other sort, or I'd be in permanent residence under my desk.

As to why...I don't know. Me, I can't even get around to writing "attaguy" to the authors whose work I enjoy. *is indolent*

(Here via arcaedia)

Welcome!
alfreda89
May. 8th, 2008 09:40 pm (UTC)
Overall, I think this is an excellent contract. Of course, there are reverses -- as in, if writers pull a HEA out of their back pocket (ahem) and it is even a teeny bit possible, you allow them the HEAs. And hope that the writers will torment their characters more in another book!

I have trouble penning things that are stark or end badly, even if it's obvious they should end badly. Probably because I fight enough darkness in my life -- I don't need to pay for more. What am I going to say: "Wow! My situation isn't nearly as bad!"?

I tend to aim for a hopeful ending. Not happy, necessarily. I have several characters in a book in note-taking stage that object to their final ending in the keystone plot. They will eventually be thrilled with the result -- but some things change because of their choices, and how their society responds to them. Can't help that. I have characters who must die to set up part of another plot line. I may be able to get them a few more years, but it will take fancy talking to survive past seven years.

Right now I don't want any "protagonist dies badly, the end" books. So don't recommend them to me. I think a lot of people are there right now (can't face unhappy endings), and if I do write such a book, I can almost guarantee I will write it under a pseudonym. The fans will be new fans who don't know my other work, and they will get what they hopefully like. (Because I have been known to just not get back to the writers' works, when I pass one by. And the person who wants to make enough money to live on says "Whoa! Think this one over!")

That said, I am currently writing what I want to write. Hope y'all will like it.

And...I have enjoyed Theo's adventures so far. Without checking in to the group, I suspect some people found the first book slow. But I was very impressed with how such a society was taken to its extremes, and what happens when a "sport", to use a biological term, is born.

Now the second book moves fast, and yet where's more?!

For those joining us in mid-semester, the Contract Between Writer and Reader is this: I, the Writer, agree to tell you, the Reader, a lie, hereinafter referred to as a story. You, the Reader, agree to suspend your disbelief in this falsehood until the end of the story, OR until I, the Writer, drop the cake.

That's it; that's the Whole Contract. People occasionally add ancillaries and addendums, to kind of stack the deck in their favor, like with any contract. I submit that those are artificial conditions which serve only to distort the core principal.

For instance, I, the Writer, do not agree to:
1) never kill off a beloved character
2) always provide a H(appy) E(ver) A(fter) ending
3) always write the same book
4) always write the same kind of book

You, the Reader, do not agree to:
#adore everything I write
#finish reading a book that doesn't work for you
#buy a book in a genre you loathe, just because I wrote it
otterb
May. 14th, 2008 07:11 pm (UTC)
Elizabeth Moon's livejournal has a discussion going on this subject too. She'd make the contract a little tighter than you do. In a May 10 post (sorry, I'm no good with links) she says "I feel that there's an implied contract between reader and writer...like that between dance partners, where the leader signals to the follower what's coming next, so that neither trips up nor gets stepped on. The writer can write whatever he/she pleases...but owes it to potential readers to state the kind of dance they're going to be doing, and not change from (say) a waltz to a jitterbug in mid-dance."

But, as you say, there's an implied commitment on the reader's part, too. Don't take the floor with someone who's promised you a waltz and then complain that it isn't fast-paced enough. If you really hate to tango, know that about yourself.

I, for example, Don't Like Vampires. They're okay in some contexts - I'm happy with them in Discworld or the Dresden Files - but stories that cast vampires as deeply, darkly romantic are just not my cuppa. I've tried a couple of times with authors whose other work I enjoy, and I still don't like them. That suggests that I shouldn't buy those books. Not that I should write the authors and tell them that they should quit writing such dreck.

(Please tell me that Duainfey doesn't turn into a vampire story...)
rolanni
May. 14th, 2008 09:01 pm (UTC)
...like that between dance partners, where the leader signals to the follower what's coming next, so that neither trips up nor gets stepped on.

That's a good description from Elizabeth. That woman oughta be a writer. *g*


(Please tell me that Duainfey doesn't turn into a vampire story...)

Duainfey does not turn into a vampire story.
otterb
May. 15th, 2008 11:43 am (UTC)
You relieve my mind.
(Anonymous)
May. 18th, 2008 03:22 pm (UTC)
distraction: under-caffeinated
I read "car chase novel" as "cat chase novel" and thought "But you haven't written one of those!" Yet?

Mary Anne in Kentucky
mbarker
May. 19th, 2008 06:14 am (UTC)
Just an interesting coincidence - I was reading some of Lois McMaster Bujold's work on my recent trip, and your words about "killing off a beloved character" led to my noticing that many of her stories seem to involve exactly that. And I think most readers of Bujold would argue that those are some of the most poignant parts, where the characters are dealing with those deaths.

So, slay those darlings, and let the plot tokens fall where they will.

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