Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Why Do We Write?

I was chatting on a loop the other day and an interesting discussion began. Still thinking about it today. Most of us write because we enjoy it and we have a story to tell. The story we eventually create might even be published somewhere. After that, there are no guaratees about anything. It could be well recieved or roundly panned and most of us pretty much know right off the bat, we aren't gonna get rich off of it.

I'm going to attempt to corral my scattered thoughts into some little bit of order here and apply this discussion into series writing. How do you feel when you buy the second or third or even fourth book in a series and find a favorite character has suddenly done a 180 degree turn? In books one, two, and three you've gotten teasing glimpses of a man who is tortured, rugged, tough, and BIG TIME alpha. The author has described him this way and whetted your interest. Finally his book comes out and he's suddenly different. He's into rainbows, puppy dogs, and long walks on the beach. Are you disappointed? Hell yeah, you're disappointed. You wanted to find out how this guy ticks. What is his past? How can the heroine reach into his tortured soul and heal him with her love and lots of really great sex?

That's pretty disappointing stuff to a reader and, as for me, I probably wouldn't buy this author again. But it's the authors' perogative, right? This is her book, her series. Does she owe her readers, her fans, any consideration at all? I mean, she is the creative force behind the series and this is her literary baby so why can't she change her characters up if she wants?

I guess the question of the day is....does an author owe anything to her readers? Personally, I think she DOES. How would you feel if I invited you to a full out Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings and then you show up and I serve a baloney sandwich? Are you disappointed? Probably. But then, this is my house and I can serve what I want, right?

I believe, as writers, we owe something to our readers. It's an expectation thing. Yes, I have created this character and now I must be true to him. He'll surely be flawed but redeemable. He'll be hot and sexy and yes, he MIGHT like rainbows and puppy dogs and long walks on the beach but those would only be small facets his character, they won't overwhelm the picture I've already painted in previous books.

17 comments:

julia barrett said...

Speaking personally, since I've never heard from a reader, I have no idea what their expectations would be. I do think we have an obligation to follow through with what we start. I like your example - if we're all into that alpha male and panting for his story, to portray him as a overly sensitive kind of guy doesn't work for me. On the other hand, sometimes authors totally change styles and move into other genres, losing some fans, gaining others.
Sorry this is so long - I guess our primary obligation is to write a decent story with compelling characters and make sure it's all edited well.

Paris said...

I'm sure if I showed up for Thanksgiving that you'd be serving the best baloney money could buy because just from what I know that's the way I'd expect you to be;-).

As authors, I believe that as long as we motivate a character to behave the way he/she does we owe it to the reader to also give the most reasonable motivation for that character to change. It's our job.

Recently, I was ticked when an author I loved and have followed her series through numerous books waiting for this one quiet, take charge alpha male to end up with this wounded woman he felt he'd betrayed--I didn't realize until the book where they each got a romance with different people, that they belonged with those partners. For perfectly legitimate reasons.

Set up a good enough motivation and I'll believe it.

Madison Scott said...

I agree with you. We do have some sort of obligation but I think we have to stay true as well. That being said, if we set him up alpha and tough, then made him sensitive and love rainbows and puppies, that's not staying true. LOL.

Regina Carlysle said...

I just think an author needs to be true to the character she has introduced. Otherwise her readers will be disappointed.

Regina Carlysle said...

That's right, Paris. If an author is going to change her character when he gets his own book, she'd better make the change plausible or she'll lose her readers.

Regina Carlysle said...

On the other hand, playing devil's advocate here, this is the creation of one person. It's HER vision and in the end,she's writing it. It's her choice. How far does she take her 'creative license' though? Does she say...I don't give a damn WHAT they think? This is what I'm doing?

Sandra Stewart said...

As a reader I know I would be horribly disappointed when the alpha male turned out differently in "his" story.

As an author I believe we do have a responsibility to recognize our market and continue to fufill it's expectations. If it means changing a story to suit the market then that should be done. That alpha male story could have been changed easily to another name, another character. So it does make one wonder what the author was thinking? What his/her purpose was in sending out that story? WAs he/she rushed? Was it a story that had been sitting around and he/she changed it to get it published? Makes you wonder, doesn't it?

Fran Lee Romance said...

I feel that we owe our readers the best damn book we can come up with. If we write for ourselves, I'm afraid we are writing for a very limited public.

I do write for myself, but I want readers to enjoy the book as much as I enjoyed writing it. I write with an eye to how another person will see my hero or heroine. Sure...I will give my characters their own spark and their own needs and failings...but I won't write a bad ending just for reality to make it plain that I don't believe in HEA endings because they are literary "garbage" as one author put it so succinctly.

Regina Carlysle said...

HEA endings AREN'T garbage and I'm guessing there are plenty of HEA's in the real world. Besides we're kind of in the HEA business, aren't we? I kind of like to think so.

Margaret Tanner said...

I agree, I think the writer does have an obligation to the reader to "deliver the goods"so to speak, and if they set up a hunky character in one book, if you are going to use him in the next book, you need to be consistent, unless there is some reason, and the reader should be told this, for him to morph into a completely different character. Well that's my take on it anyway.
Cheers
Margaret

Mary Ricksen said...

I do agree if you into him as an alpha male he should stay one. Unless he has amnesia.

Beth Trissel said...

I agree with you, Rita. Be honest with your readers and give them what you've led them to expect. If you change horses, give them a heads up.

Marianne Stephens said...

I haven't written a series, but I'd feel it was necessary to continue my character's traits for readers' satisfaction. Only way to make changes would be to have some major event in his/her life to make him/her a better, understanding person. It's a tough call, though. Readers want continuity and that's why they read series.
I guess I'd say tread carefully if changing a character's traits in a sequel.

Regina Carlysle said...

I think we're pretty much in agreement here. If we create a character in a certain way, we need to be true to him/her. If not we disappoint not only our readers but ourselves.

Anne Rainey said...

I'm not sure how to respond to this. I've been trying to figure out what to say, but I'm sort of torn.

On one hand, I do think she has a responsibility. Nothing makes me crazier than reading a secondary character, wanting his book so badly, then when it comes out, the author completely chopped up his personality.

On the other hand, the author can't write to please the reader, she has to write what she feels, in her heart. Otherwise it just ends up shit.

I really don't know. There's got to be some balance of pleasing the reader (keeping true to character), while still pleasing yourself.

Then again, this is no different than creating a world, then not following rules of that world from one book to the next. An author wouldn't dream of making such a horrible mistake. It'd be the death of her career. So, how is this any different really?

I guess in the end, it's best to be careful starting a series in the first place. You'd better have it mapped out and you'd better NOT move off course. And if you create a troubled hero, but decide you want Mr. Happy instead, save it for the next series!

Regina Carlysle said...

YEah, I've been tossing this around in my mind too. No, I don't plan to do something like that. I know my readers expect to read about the hero I introduced in the previous books. I just thought it was an interesting question. In the end, I believe a writer has to be true to her characters and her vision for the book but should think long and hard if is considering major changes. Alienating your readers isn't smart.

Bekki Lynn said...

I actually had this happen. The lady who would be heroine in the third book came off a spoiled little imature b**** in the second book where she plays a prominent secondary character. However, when I started her story, I found I lost that. How was the hero going to tame her if she wasn't the woman he fell in love with. I had to go back and reread the second story to get back into her character.

I'm currently reading a very popular, long-going series and over the last couple of years, I've seriously asked myself, who wrote this one? I understand character growth, but this isn't it.

Everything, the writing style, the voice, the heroine was way too different. It bothered me. If that was the only one, no big deal. However, it's not been. So, I don't jump on the new releases like I used to. Frankly, now, I only have them because my husband buys them for me.

That's a sad thing for a reader to say about her favorite author.