Of course, as an author, I always hope my readers enjoy my books and that they feel satisfied with the final conflict resolution that comes about at the end of each story. If you’re an avid reader, you’re certain to be disappointed with the ending of a book written by one of your favorite authors at some point. But does this mean he or she has done a bad job of writing?
Does an author really have a responsibility to please readers when it comes to how he or she develops certain characters or brings the plots and subplots to an ending? Does the reader have any responsibility at all?
Author and Reader Bond – Do authors need to please readers?
When you love the work of a particular author and have read all (or almost all) of his books, there’s a sort of trust bond created between you and the author. Those of you, who have read my Lou Mason crime novel series from Motion to Kill all the way to Final Judgment, know what I’m talking about. This relationship is something every author hopes to develop with his or her reading audience. Readers expect certain things from their favorite authors and the authors desperately want to give them what they crave and deliver it in an entertaining, compelling way.
Let’s say you’ve been reading a new series by your favorite author. For argument’s sake, we’ll make it a three book series; wherein, the last book in this trilogy is supposed to wrap up all the loose ends left by the first two books. You loved the first two books and wait with bated breath for the third book. Of course, the author takes his time in writing it and you and your fellow fans of the series agonize over the too-long wait. Finally, the book is out. You read it and absolutely hate it. You think the ending didn’t do the hero justice; nor, do you like the way he handled the subplots. Further, the author finally revealed what was really going on to cause the conflict; you didn’t like the stance he took on the issue. The experience leaves you bitter and feeling a bit betrayed.
Is this really the author’s fault? Did he really betray the delicate author-reader bond?
The answer to these questions comes down to the responsibilities of the author and those of the reader.
- Quality writing and storytelling
- Careful editing
- Honesty and integrity
- Keep an open mind during the reading process
- Use objective basis and not simply subjective viewpoints when reviewing books
- Honesty and integrity
If the third book in our fictional scenario had the same high-quality writing and storytelling as the first two in the series, the author certainly did fulfill the first two responsibilities. Even if you didn’t like the way the story played out, it’s important to look at this with as much objectivity as possible.
An author has immense power when laying out the characters and plot of his or her novel. He can destroy the world, he can obliterate beloved characters, and he can do all of this with his imagination. Look at George R.R. Martin, author of the epic fantasy series, A Song of Ice and Fire, and his propensity to brutally and suddenly kill off favorite characters (King Rob and the red wedding, anyone?). Even if you haven’t read the books, and only watch the HBO series, you know the pain of losing those you love at what seems like the whimsy of Martin’s murderous pen. But have you stopped watching, or reading? Not if you truly have a bond with the characters and Martin as author and creator of that world.
Martin writes his stories with integrity and honesty. Anyone familiar with his writing knows about his propensity for killing. I write each book in my three crime thriller series with personal honesty and integrity and strive to deliver the best quality writing to you, my reading audience. One day, the way I tie up one of my stories may disappoint some, but may ring true and right with others. If I’ve written it well, and with compassion, honesty, and integrity, I’ve held up my end of responsibilities.
As a reader, I see your responsibilities as similar to mine – read with honesty and integrity and with an open mind. When you review books (from any author), write the review from both a typical subjective standpoint and an objective one. Using objectivity within your reviews gives your opinion much more authority than just flippant criticism based on what you thought should have happened, yet did not.
What do you think? Does an author have a responsibility to shape his or her stories to please the reading audience?
Photo credits: George R.R. Martin image from theclemreport [dot] com; girl reading from kalkion [dot] com