For the love of a story

As a self-admitted book worm, I love to find new authors and genres to read. One of the many things I like to see before buying a book is the reviews of other readers. While they don’t usually determine whether I’ll buy the book, I may move on to something else if there are enough bad reviews.

As an aspiring writer, however, that decision frightens me a little. I have seen some really scary reviews of works that I have personally enjoyed. I find it amazing how thoroughly some people will tear apart a book, looking for hidden meanings in every word or action of a character, and then use these ‘hidden meanings’ to further their own agenda.

What’s the harm in that, you ask. Usually, I would say nothing. After all, if we can’t find examples to support our arguments, how would we prove our beliefs to other people? The literature around us provides all sorts of examples to support every manner of belief. What disturbs me, though, is that during all of that, something seems to be getting lost.

I read books for many reasons, but one of the main reasons is because that story opens my mind to new possibilities and points of view. Ideas, thoughts and feelings that I never would have previously considered, or even thought of, are presented through the words and actions of characters that are ‘living’ through situations I may never experience. Better yet, they may be dealing with something I have experienced and they offer me another way to look at the situation that I was blind to in my own narrow-mindedness.

The most important reason for reading a story, though, is the story itself. I may be alone in this, but I don’t think most writers create a story with the intent of pushing a certain objective. I also don’t think they create their characters with the intent of telling the readers how they should behave. So, saying a story is awful and not worth reading just because you don’t agree with how a certain character behaves seems to be counterproductive as far as I am concerned. The world is full of all kinds of people, and I enjoy stories that include all of them. I don’t want to read a story full of cookie-cutter personalities based on how the world thinks people should behave. It’s not realistic, not to mention, it’s boring.

I believe most readers to be a fairly intelligent lot, capable of deciding for themselves what they can take from a story and apply to their own lives, and what they can leave behind. I also believe people are capable of reading a story for the pure enjoyment of delving into another world or another mind, meeting new characters and experiencing new situations, and coming out just fine on the other end. It is in this belief that I find the hope that, as a writer, I will always be true to the story and the characters I create, regardless of what the critics may say.

So here’s to enjoying a story for what it is. A story. Hopefully your next one will be filled with characters that stick with you after the story is over, like good friends. If it touches you in some way, then it has accomplished its goal and was worth reading. That’s all I ask for, each time I open a new book.

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4 Responses to For the love of a story

  1. Anna Spanos says:

    I used to be a very opinionated GoodReads book reviewer – there was nothing more comforting to my poor little writer’s ego than finding everything that was wrong with someone else’s book! Then one of my closest friends published her first book… suddenly I realized, even published authors have egos and insecurities! And published authors read the reviews that we leave for them! Every time my friend would get a negative review she would call me in a panic, and all I could think about were all of those 1-star snarky reviews I had taken such malicious joy from posting.
    Long story short, I don’t do reviews anymore. Well, except maybe for those nights when I’m playing the tortured writer, drinking too much wine and feeling bad about not publishing my own book, but hopefully I’ll remember to go back and delete them when the silly spell passes. 🙂

    • I have to admit, I’ve torn apart a book or two in my time. Even my favorites are not immune. I see every mistake in someone else’s writing (but miss my own obvious ones). I think that’s why I refrain from reviewing books and I’m very careful when critiquing in writing groups.

  2. When I wrote for the stage, I was always fascinated to hear how my script was interpreted by audience members. After each performance, I would almost always be cornered by some guy who wanted to praise my play’s symbolism.

    The fact that my play was symbolic of nothing was neither here nor there. Mr. Audience Member was happy, so I was, too.

  3. The most irritating criticisms I’ve seen have been when the reviewer pans a story because she doesn’t approve of the outcome of the romantic element. She was rooting for A and the heroine chooses B. The book is judged as if it’s a tv reality show. Nothing to do with the writing or what the book’s all about.

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