author/reader dynamics

You Can’t Read Minds, So Don’t Even Try

I read a lot of publishing blogs. I read them for information about the industry and I read them for the wonderful writing tips they provide. Yesterday, Nathan Bransford wrote a great post about the dynamics between two characters. And I learned something new. http://blog.nathanbransford.com/

But this post isn’t about character dynamics. It’s more about author/reader dynamics. Besides publishing blogs, I also learn a lot from reading reviews about my books. Whether they are good, mediocre, or bad reviews, I usually learn something. Yesterday I learned that it’s not possible to read minds (smile).

In Dancing Dirty, I went into detailed explanations about the time period and how gay men related to each other in 1978. I did this in several sections of the book because I have a fan base that ranges from the early twenties on up and many of the readers have no idea what it was like back in l978. For example, the concept of safe sex hadn’t come about yet because the AIDS virus hadn’t reached the mainstream public. AIDS was around, but no one knew about it (or took it seriously) until the early eighties. I also went into detail about the time period because I’ve learned never to take anything for granted. In other words, I don’t assume that a reader will know something. I explain it. And, we’re not talking about pages of explanation here; just a few extra sentences here and there.

And yet one reader who reviewed Dancing Dirty thought I went into too much detail about the time period by repeating certain facts throughout the book. It was actually a great review, and I thank her for it, seriously. The reason I’m writing this post, though, is to show readers that authors do, in fact, take these things into consideration while they are writing. And if there’s too much information…or what seems like too much information…it’s only because the author doesn’t want to take any chances with sensitive subjects. If I’d written this novel and not mentioned anything about what it was like in l978, I’m sure I would have had tons of e-mails slamming me for not mentioning safe sex practices.

Sometimes I wish I could go back and re-write certain things in certain books. And usually it’s because I feel as though I’ve left something out. But not this time. The information about the time period in the book is valid, and I hope no one feels as though I’ve tried to insult their intelligence. Because I’ve learned there’s no way to read minds and the more information about certain subjects the better it is for most readers in general. Personally, when I read any book I look for the detailed information all the time. And when it’s not there I’m usually disappointed.