Monday, February 28, 2011

What’s It All About, Alfie?

What's it all about, Alfie?
Is it just for the moment we live?
What's it all about when you sort it out, Alfie?

Are we meant to take more than we give
Or are we meant to be kind?

At the Most Basic Level Do Critics Even Understand Fiction?

Do they really have any idea what they are talking about?

Sometimes I think critics and teachers just don’t get it. It’s like they know every part of the human body but they have no idea what a human being is.

I read a blog this morning that was talking about plot. A famous writer was said to have weak plots but that his stories were about his plots. The characters just followed the plot. It didn’t make much difference who the characters were. This tendency made the writer a dull writer. Of course, this writer was one of the best selling authors of his time.

The critic went on to say that even people who talk a lot about plot are really interested in what everyone else is interested in with regard to fiction and that is characters. Oh, my.

Fiction is about what people are interested in, what entertains them and what they feel rewarded by reading.

People read fiction and given authors for specific reasons. The authors offer something they like and want to read. That’s what’s important.

People could be reading an author because of the plot, or the characterization, or the descriptions, or the humor, or the satire, or the author’s unique point-of-view or even the author’s quirky voice. There might even be a combination of these elements. The important thing is that there is something readers like and if the author delivers that ‘something’ then that author can be successful.

The key to success here is knowing your audience. Knowing what the audience likes best in your writing and then delivering that ‘something’ better with each new book.

Authors who get this concept, like Janet Evanovich, Lilian Jackson Braun, Louis L’Amour, Nevada Barr, Nora Roberts and many others, develop followings. These authors know what their readers like and want and they deliver it.

That’s what it’s about, Alfie. Creating something enough readers will love and then getting better and better at delivering that ‘something’.

By the way: this is something the critics can’t stand! Somehow critics want everything to be based on rules and logic and what people should want. This is fine and well for critics writing for other critics but a writer would be wise to overlook much of this critical noise and concentrate on creating a product people want to buy.

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