I Am Not Necessarily Me

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I use first person narrator in many of my stories.  I find the level of intimacy I can connect with in the character makes the experience feel more authentic.

I also enjoy the unreliability of the first person narrator. Although I don’t intend to make my main characters questionable, all first person accounts must be met with skepticism.

There’s one possible downside to the first person narrator and I’m certain many writers have experienced the fan who believes they understand the author based on a story which utilized the “I”.

dadshiningOne reader contacted me convinced Dad Shining was about me. “This is a true story, I bet!” He wrote.

This is complimentary in the fact that the story must have been realistic enough for this reader to believe and enjoy it.

However, Dad Shining (originally published in The Chicago Tribune’s Printers Row Journal) is written from a male point of view experiencing a life event incomparable to what a woman could experience.

There’s not much a writer can do about being mistaken for their narrator except to gently correct the reader without offending them or merely thank them. I said, “thank you for reading.”

My main character in West End is a young woman, and I did use an area close to where I grew up. A number of readers have attempted to call me out on that. One reader wrote, “I know most of this is you, except for the part of leaving the boy.” Another reader, convinced it was me believed I’d been married before and left them to change my name and start a new life incognito.

This did bother me to some extent; the woman in West End is in some ways stuck in west end coverlife, and while that might be my fear, it is not me.

Still others found the first person narrator unreliable enough to question her sanity and ask me if she was seeing spirits. These questions I rather enjoyed. One character I had intended to be questionable, but when asked about another – I don’t want to say as I don’t want to ruin it for anyone! – I was blown away!

And that is the benefit and, perhaps, curse of first person narrator. The connection is so authentically intimate that you might convince readers it’s you; And you might just convince them the narrator is a little off her rocker!

Reader Response

Some authors are unhappy when readers see something in their story, novel, or poem that was not intended.

I subscribe to the theory of reader response. Our work is going to touch different people in different ways; readers are going to get out of it something related to what they bring to it, so if they don’t see what we originally intended, they are not wrong, nor did they read it wrong, they are merely giving the writer an insight.front-cover-small

I, personally, am thrilled when readers see something I hadn’t intended. For my novella, West End, one reader said the melancholy of the main character haunted her. Other readers believed some of the characters might have actually been spirits or ghosts. One of the characters, I left open. His questionable appearances deepened the story and the effects on the main character who is dealing with depression.

However, when another reader felt that the son might have been a ghost – it made me go back and reread my own work!

Once the story, novel, or poem is out there, readers are going to take away or put into it whatever is in their own toolbox and we can not control it. We may not like it – I had one person mistake me for one of my characters – but we do have to accept it. I usually thank the reader for their insights, regardless of what I feel about the response.

All readings are good readings!

If you’re interested in reading West End – it’ll be on sale Saturday and Sunday. And – then let me know what you think!

Professionalism

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Some people do not understand the basic rules of professionalism. Speaking to, writing, or responding to an editor or publisher should be undertaken with care. These people are our colleagues in the best sense of the word.

I’ve worked with a few literary journals and have talked to editors at others. The things authors say and do completely surprised me.

I’ve only had a single editor be so completely unprofessional I became embarrassed for her (and forwarded her email to her boss). On the other hand, I’ve dealt with a number of writers who have taken pride in their unprofessional behaviors.

One writer posted a snarky response (he supposedly emailed) to an editor. Whether he actually wrote that to an editor is one thing, it’s quite another message to post it on social media for all to see. He may have felt he had won the battle, so to speak, but what he actually did was show how unprofessional he behaved with a colleague, and what a risk other editors or publishers might find him to work with.

We can disagree with editors, publishers, other writers, but there’s no reason to verbally attack or otherwise be rude to anyone in the industry. Taking your private issues with public companies to social media is a mistake on any number of levels. Just like employers look at social media sites, so do publishers.

I had one publisher ask me for all my Promote-Your-Brand-On-Social-Media.jpgsocial media links. While some writers told me not to hand it over, I felt it was part of my job to have these available to people in the industry. I maintain social media sites for this reason. Publishers don’t want to just know if writers have a following, but how they’re interacting with readers, writers, and others on those social media sites.

Being rude in an email, speaking arrogantly on a call, and posting disagreements publicly will not further a career.

I do understand it’s quite popular in our society of late to act like an arse and expect to be treated like a king/queen; however, it gives a poor impression and people will not want to work with a person who acts like a spoiled child.