I spent most of the past 5 days working in the yard at our house in the country. Three years ago, a leprosy-carrying critter tunneled all around the foundation of our house and pretty far up under the foundation of the back porch.
Our neighbor tried to trap it in a cage made for wild critters. He succeeded only in catching 1 pissed-off giant skunk instead.
I learned a lot about wildlife pests that year. For instance, only 1 thing deters an armadillo. Death. My only hope was that it might become road kill. I guess that eventually happened because it stopped coming around. By then, the yard was wrecked. Mulch was scattered everywhere, shrubs were uprooted, flowers were dead.
Real life problems intervened, then last year, another armadillo found our yard. Same story. I bought Coyote Urine Granules which was touted as an armadillo deterrent. Well, it didn’t deter the armadillo, but it sure made us run for cover. Eventually, that pest must have met a speeding car on the highway too.
This year, we made the commitment to evict the weeds that had replaced the landscaping. Big commitment, and an even bigger job!
You may be wondering what this has to do with the title of my post. When I’m pulling weeds and digging up surviving plants, I have a lot of time to think. So I thought about books and reading. I thought about my work in progress and suspension of disbelief which led me to think about how readers would accept my new story. Another leap, and I was thinking about how a writer reads versus how a reader reads.
I think as writers we always look at situations in books from a writer’s viewpoint. I don’t think readers look at those same situations in the same way.
For instance, if a writer is trying to create a situation in which the protagonist does something most people wouldn’t do, the writer agonizes over how to make it believable to the reader. The writer jumps through all kinds of mental hoops to create a situation in which readers will suspend their disbelief and follow the viewpoint character through the story.
Actually, I don’t think most readers (who are non-writers) ever really think about whether a situation is outlandish–especially if they immediately identify with the viewpoint character. They’re not thinking about the story in the same way as writers.
Readers don’t shop for books, picking up one after the other, with the thought, “No, I won’t read that because the premise is unbelievable.” Or, “yes, I can suspend my disbelief and read this.”
Most readers are wanting to be taken on an adventure so they’re not nearly as critical as writers. Otherwise, there would be no paranormal or fantasy sales or any of the other genres populated by high concept books. There’d probably be a lot fewer romance and mystery sales too.
When a reader wants a mystery, he/she probably doesn’t pick up a book, read the blurb, and think: I don’t believe a wacky woman could work as a bail recovery agent. Or, the reason this housewife wants to play sleuth is ridiculous.
Writers who are reading will think like that, but readers don’t. Readers just dive in, wanting an adventure, wanting to be entertained. Readers are more lenient with books than writers, as long as the reader is entertained. Ultimately, suspension of disbelief is achieved by being carried away by a story and its characters.
Regardless of the genre, readers follow this thought process: “Hmm. This sounds intriguing.” If it does, they buy. Readers buy based on the way the story or the character resonates with them. They don’t pick apart the blurb or over-analyze the premise.
Writers may buy the same book, but that little editor inside them is constantly analyzing and critiquing–not just the writing and the story, but the way it was marketed too.
At least that’s my 2 cents. What do you think?
I loosely based the setting in my Outlaw Ridge, Texas series on the country-side near our house. In Heat Lightning, the first book of the series, the only varmints Tessa and David encounter are the two-legged variety. Heat Lightning is free on Kindle Unlimited, or only $2.99 to buy. Dead Heat, Book 2 of the series, will be published in July.
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Joan Reeves—Keeping Romance Alive…One Sexy Book at a Time—is a NY Times and USA Today bestselling author of Contemporary Romance. From Romantic Comedy to Romantic Thriller, all of her books have the same premise: “It’s never too late to live happily ever after.” Joan lives her happily-ever-after with her hero, her husband, in the Lone Star State. They divide their time between a book-cluttered home in Houston and a quiet house in the Texas Hill Country where they sit on the porch, stare at the big night sky, and listen to the coyotes howl. Sign up for Joan’s Mailing List and be the first to know about new books and giveaways.
So rue, Joan! I’ve read some pretty far-out premises from bestselling authors and had no trouble immersing myself in their tales. Sometimes, as writers, I think we listen too much to criticisms from well-meaning critique partners that we turn off the inner voice telling us this is a story a READER would enjoy.
Hope your armadillo problems are over!
Yes, sometimes, we just have to follow our gut instinct.
I too hope I never have another armadillo problem. Amazing how such a small animal can create such havoc.
Ha, thanks for the great post, Joan, I’d never seen an armadillo until I visited my cousin in Oklahoma a few years back. There were scorpions there, too, but never mind that…
I enjoyed reading about the differences between readers and writers reading, and I think you have a great POV on this issue. Thanks for sharing your knowledge. It always is cool to learn other perspectives!
Sorry about the problem critters you have to deal with. Mine are all two-legged LOL!
Loved this post and totally agree with reading as a writer… wayyy to critical for my own good. Sometimes, though, a story grips me and I’m caught and loving it. Like when I read your book in Kiss Me, Thrill Me 🙂
Thanks, Mimi. *LOL*
I never realized armadillos can be such a problem. We have rabbits and coyotes and deer here in the suburbs, but they leave our houses alone.
Your blog about the difference between readers and writers makes me realize I need to consider that when doing marketing material.