December 12, 2012

Writing Club Wednesday: Never Underestimate the Reader

Helloooo, Misfiteers! I'm coming to you on this wonderfully frigid Wednesday morning before my godawful Cultural Anthropology final to talk about never underestimating your readers.

I've read a lot of YA. Well, probably not as much as some of my fellow Misfits, but more than most people. And in a lot of books I've seen authors constantly taking their readers by the hand and explaining exactly what's happening, or dumbing down what could be an intricate and compelling plot just so the reader won't be lost.

I do not like this. It makes me think of what would have happened if the big mystery in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire had no red herrings. Chaos, is what. Anarchy. The loss of plot and all intrigue. The death of literature. (Okay. Maybe not that extreme.)

Here's what I've learned in my decade of writing and reading YA fiction:

There is a delicate line between intricate depth and confusing mess, and as long as you stay on the side of intricate depth, your readers will be able to keep up. Granted, doing that is a daunting task, and sometimes you might slip into the confusing side, but it's better to shoot for intricate and fix it later rather than settle for a story that's less than it can be and insult your readers in the process.

Here's the thing about readers, especially the ones who read a lot: They know. They can tell when you're pulling your punches, and if they're anything like me, they won't like it. And if they're REALLY like me, there's a pretty good chance they won't read your next book.*

In the end, you have to write the book you want to write. Always keep the reader in mind, of course, but don't simplify something because you think your readers aren't smart enough to "get it". If you explain correctly and do your job as a writer, they'll get it. And they'll love your story even more for it.

*Most readers are not like me. Thank god.

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