Swim at your own Risk


This post is prompted by an interesting conversation with one of the beta readers for “One Bad Apple”. To sum it up: she’s not a fan of immersion-style storytelling, and consequently, she didn’t like it. I mean ‘huge question marks in the margins, circles, arrows, post-it notes, WTF’ didn’t get it.

She maintains my extreme approach reduces an already limited spec-fiction audience. Allowing that “OBA” is the first part of a larger, serialized story wherein the pieces get placed on the board, she claims it’s simply not accessible. I have an acute case of Starving-Artist Syndrome because a majority of readers demand a single cast of characters, with a logical linear plot.

I recognize her different perspective on fiction, (lots of things, actually) which is why I value her opinion. I need objective criticism to improve. I confess though that I rebelled at her critique.

I had an editor once who constantly referenced movies while critiquing my book. He justified this by saying more people had seen a bad movie than read a good book. (A film isn’t a novel. Different post/different day. I didn’t retain his services.)

But I’m following his bad example here and saying films like Crash, Traffic, Babel, The Air I Breathe, the oddity that was The Fountain, the upcoming Cloud Atlas all presume the audience approach the story with both a body of knowledge as well as the willingness to hold seemingly disparate threads in abeyance. They trust it will all come together by the conclusion.

The genre books that challenge me, force me to think, Neuromancer, Finch, Gormenghast, even Joe Abercrombie’s stuff and Rothfuss’ first two Kingkiller Chronicles (dude, hurry up with the third, please) all plunge the reader into the middle of a fully-formed world. True, elements must be recognizable, but there’s an alien thrill to them that forces me to sit up, turn on my brain and pay attention. Like exploring King Solomon’s Mines, the experience is part obstacle course, part treasure hunt, part quest.

Moment of candor: I’m making this ‘author-thing’ up as I go along. I’m coming into writing late in life. (I’m 48. A grandfather) I got no MFA in Creative Fiction, just a couple writing classes at a Community College/Online, and a shelf full of “How to Write” books. The Clar1ty Wars is an arc on the learning curve. It allows me to experiment, perfect my voice, and exorcise things that have haunted my mind for years. There you have it.

I’m approaching my potential audience as experienced, the story as a mosaic. Or an impressionist painting. Viewed individually, the pieces seem disparate and odd, but (hopefully) combine to create a larger whole. Now my Imaginary Reader is capable of connecting the dots, but add inexperience with my preference for the immersion-style, and I’ve got a recipe for potential disaster.

All I can offer is the hope I left enough Floaties bobbing in the pool before I shoved folks in the deep end.

If you enjoyed it – Thank you. If not, cough it up and please accept my apologies.

8 Replies to “Swim at your own Risk”

  1. If you’re new at this, it doesn’t show. As for the MFA, I threw that idea around for awhile, but decided this writing gig doesn’t pay enough to make it worthwhile. If I ever have a couple dozen extra thousand dollar bills laying around, I’ll pursue it. If not, I’ll keep learning by doing.

    I like reading fiction that I can’t fully grasp, or that leaves me feeling a little discombobulated. True, you are probably narrowing your audience a bit. But, most of the writers that have made lasting imprints on history wrote a above the typical reader’s comfort level, I think.

  2. Again, thank you.

    I’m finding my voice as I write this stuff out. Slowly gaining confidence with words and figuring out what the hell I’m trying to say as I say it.

    Had the terrible experience of glancing at a chapter of Running Black just a moment ago. Started mentally editing and was horrified.

    Snapped it shut and put it back on the shelf.

    Can’t look back.

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