Things Readers Wish Writers Would Keep In Mind

by Gail Z. Martin

Last week I talked about things writers wish they could whisper in readers’ ears.  Now it’s time to turn that around and remind writers what readers wish they’d remember.

#1  It’s been a year since we read the last book in the series, so give us some gentle reminders to get us up to speed.  Admittedly, this is tricky for both readers and writers, because each individual reading a book will have forgotten different things than the next reader, and the writer has to cover the waterfront without slowing things down to a halt to recap the last four 600-page books.  Perhaps it’s best to agree to meet in the imperfect middle, with a few mental nudges from the writer (short of an full-blown recap) and the reader’s agreement to go back and skim through the last volume if they’ve forgotten everything.

#2  Just because you, the writer, have worked out ever detail in your head (or your notebooks), readers don’t have to know it.  Some writers get so enthralled by their own backstory that they feel compelled to share it, even when it doesn’t actually matter to the plot.  It’s like reading a book about World War II and having someone drop in a three-page description of the Napoleonic Wars just because you ought to know about them.  However, just because a reader becomes enthralled by a certain element in a book, the writer is not automatically obligated to fill in all the details.  Some things work better when mysterious around the edges.

#3  Speaking of which…writers shouldn’t feel compelled to explain what is better left unsaid (such as faster than light travel, wormholes, or magic), and readers should try not to feel gypped when they don’t get a free physics class as part of the price of the book.  The corollary is that just because a writer is a rocket scientist doesn’t mean he/she is required to explain physics to the poor reader who just wants a space opera adventure.

There.  I’ve gotten it all off my chest.  I hope I’ve touched on some things that other people wanted the chance to say.  Think of something else?  Let me know!

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Filed under Books, Fandom, Gail Z. Martin

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