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.