My Fiction Site

In the right sidebar are clickable images of the covers of my novels, which will take you to their Amazon listings. Other posts will link to available free works – mostly shorter ones – and assorted thoughts on the writing of fiction.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

The Discriminating Reader

     That’s the reader at whom I aim my stuff, just as the graphic at the head of this site says. Do I always hit the mark? Probably not. But nevertheless, he – the reader who won’t accept second-best – is my target.

     But how shall I know what he wants to read?

     Part of the answer is provided by one’s existing readers. These days they have a lot of ways to let a writer know what pleases them. The most persuasive of all the methods is his revenue stream, but not far behind that are their reviews, emails, tweets, and other phenomena of our effortless-communication era. These things carry more weight with a writer than any self-appointed “critic” with a column in the New York Review of Books...and they should. A serious writer doesn’t write for the “critics,” any more than a serious director works to please the film critics.

     The discriminating reader seeks the works of the discriminating writer.

     That’s the seed material for today’s screed.

     A discriminating writer is one who crafts stories:

  • About believable characters,
  • In imaginable situations,
  • Confronting imaginable crises,
  • And coping with them according to their natures.

     Though those appear to be easy targets to hit, the great frequency of published books and stories that manage not to hit them testifies to the contrary.

     Of course, this is all purely opinion, right? It’s just about tastes, and everyone knows you can’t argue about tastes, right? Besides, all science fiction, fantasies, and horror stories start out completely unbelievable, right? So that loudmouth Fran is just venting again, trying to present his preferences as commandments from God, right? Right?

     Have you ever seen or heard the saying “Buy the premise, buy the flick?” Said about a movie, of course. It’s the same with fiction, really. If the protagonists and antagonists, however many there are of either, confront a situation plausible within the context premised by the genre and the specified setting, and respond to it plausibly according to their natures – both what they are and who they are – the result will please the discriminating reader. Always assuming it’s been properly proofread and formatted, of course.

     This is a large part of the reason I can’t abide contemporary horror fiction that features “benevolent” vampires. A vampire is, by nature, an apex predator. His attitude toward Mankind must be essentially predatory, no matter how straitly disciplined. Over thousands of years, some vampires would evolve toward a kind of carefully managed symbiosis with living men, but the process would undoubtedly be protracted, painful, and marred by many a misstep.

     John Conroe’s Demon Accords series, which I enjoy greatly, narrowly skirts that abyss. His vampires are predators, and make no mistake about it. But the more successful ones police themselves ruthlessly, and continually seek ways to lessen their dependency on humans as feedstock. Conroe has obviously given some thought to the contradiction of the “benevolent vampire,” for at several times in his books he notes their essential, indelibly predatory nature and the obvious dangers they would pose if unchecked. I tried to do something similar in my little story “Class Action.”

     I want to please the discriminating reader. I want no plaudits for “technique.” I want my reader to finish a story or a novel thinking “yes, that’s what they would have done, and that’s how it would have gone,” and perhaps feeling a bit better about his sense for the natures of men...or five-eyed pentapodal Aldebaranian colony organisms. I will always be happy to recommend to him the works of some other writer whom I’ve encountered, and who’s done it notably well. And I will cherish even above whatever praise I receive the thoughts of such a reader who can show me, in any particular story or novel, where I’ve fallen short of that standard.

     That is the Creed of the Discriminating Writer -- my creed.

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