So, people are actually reading the things that I write. That’s a weird feeling in and of itself. Then there is the fact that people are having emotional responses to things that I’ve written, and that’s humbling and flattering and occasionally scary.
Earlier this year, I wrote a short story for kids called ‘The Museum Bell’ and offered it as a thank you for donations to Doctors of the World UK. The story is set on the front steps of the Yorkshire Museum, and a number of people who had read it told me that it had inspired them to visit and see the places and objects mentioned in the story. Here’s a photo of Lochy on the Museum steps, sent to me by his Mum, the talented Amy-Jane Beer.
Lochy ringing ‘The Museum Bell’
The idea that people might have their enjoyment of a place enhanced because of stories stuck with me, and forms the basis of a new writing venture that I hope to tell you more about very soon.
Then there is Joseph, one of my ‘beta readers’ for Alfie Slider. When his Mum asked if the story was too frightening, he had named only one scene as problematical. Why? It reminded him of an accident he’d had himself.
During my Christmas visiting, I met a family member who is very supportive of my writing. She told me how moved she’d been by my recent winning entry for Hour of Writes, After the Flood. I can’t count the number of times a book or story has moved me, stayed with me after I’ve finished reading it, and it’s amazing to know that I have the ability to do that too! Just with the power of words!
I haven’t, yet, set out to write a deliberately provocative piece but sometimes my personal thoughts and feelings sneak out from my characters mouths and my fears form the basis for bad guys or bad situations.
You might remember a while back I got some negative feedback from an entry to Hour of Writes, Climate of Change. Well, I’ve seen the comments of the person who marked that piece now; they say that reading it made them lose their temper, and that they had to take a few hours to cool off. I’m stunned that my words can have such an affect on someone, all the more so because as I said: I haven’t, yet, set out to write a deliberately provocative piece; apparently I wrote one accidentally, though.
I have some discomfort with this aspect of writing. I dislike manipulation on a deeply fundamental level, and yet that is exactly what I’m doing when I write a story. I want the reader to invest in the characters, to love or loathe them. I want them to feel happy, scared, sad or uplifted as appropriate. Writing is manipulation, and I choose my words to give the story maximum effect.
There’s also the element of how much people infer about you, the author, because of the things your characters say and do. I’ve already had to reassure friends and family members that I’m not terrified of abduction or having suicidal thoughts because they’ve read stories or poems and assumed that I was. The marker who got so upset thought that the point-of-view character’s thoughts and feelings were my own, that I was using her to argue my own agenda. I wonder if crime writers get any social invitations, or if hosts just hide all the sharp objects before they arrive?
Ultimately this is something that I need to develop more of a tolerance for, I suppose. People are going to have unexpected reactions to my stories, and as more and more people read my work so I’ll have to find a way to deal with that. Looking to the future and publication, there is the spectre of online reviews looming large, with all their scorn and vitriol.
What have I got myself into?