I have always believed that there are certain responsibilities that I have as a writer. I consider them my job requirements, and like most requirements, sometimes they are met, and some days they are not. However, I do pride myself on trying each day to keep these responsibilities ever present in my mind and actions.
The first one is the responsibility not to treat readers as idiots. I think, perhaps that sometimes writers, even myself fall into the trap of thinking that everything must be explained, detailed, or the words we use must be small and easily rolled off the tongue. I’ve heard it said that this is done to reach a wider audience, to make sure the work is accessible to more people. Perhaps this is a valid justification for writing an adult novel at the level of an elementary textbook, but I don’t think so.
Think about it. Those who read, and read consistently within the general public have some of the most diverse vocabulary out there. They are articulate, have great reasoning skills, and usually have the knowledge base, and the access to resources needed to get the information they need to make informed decisions about what they read, and what they are reading. In short, they know their stuff, and if they don’t, they know where to get the information they n
Is it really fair, or even logical for me to assume that anyone who picks up one of my pieces of work needs to have me explain every emotional nuance or describe every thought? Most readers, at least in my experience can easily put two and two together, to use the old cliché, quite easily.
Don’t get me wrong; details are wonderful- and I do use them. Telling the reader the exact shade of pale amber of the wheat field or how my character closed her eyes and breathed in the evening air is essential to creating the story and image that I want to portray. However, I usually don’t feel the need to tell the reader that the character felt refreshed after breathing in the night air. If I have done my job correctly, then the reader should be able to easily interpret the emotions of the character simply by using my words and experiences from their own lives.
The second responsibility that I consider important in my job as a writer is to provide a way for the reader to reach beyond their world as they know it. And this responsibility isn’t just confined to writing sci-fi or fantasy. Rather any story I write should be good enough, and believable enough to allow the reader to be “whisked away” from the doldrums of everyday life, at least for a little while. I have the responsibility to not only give them an escape, but to also provide a glimpse into a new point of view of the world around them. While the reader is the only one who has the ability to change them for the better, I can at least give them the opportunity to see that the possibility is there.
There is an idea in writing and books- first brought into the picture by Samuel Taylor Coleridge in 1817 of the suspension of disbelief. Basically this idea means that the reader, at least temporarily must accept some pretty incredible circumstances- ones that would normally be completely unbelievable to make the story work. It is an important part of storytelling, and is often seen as sign of faith in the writer on behalf of the reader. Suspending disbelief is a way for the reader to say- “okay, this might not make sense in reality, but in this world, this story, it works. I trust you.”
That is one completely, awe-inspiring and humbling act of faith and trust in my book. One that I believe many writers- including myself take for granted. So, when the reader must suspend disbelief to make it through one of my stories, I try to make it as reasonable and as comfortable as possible. A leap of faith is still a leap of faith, even if it’s a short one.
There are, of course other responsibilities that I have as a writer. There is the responsibility to meet deadlines, to promote my work, to be friendly with my fan base, no matter how small it may be. But in the end, everything boils down to being honest, and treating the reader like the intelligent and unique people that they are. Everything else is secondary.
© 2014, Laura Seeber. All rights reserved.