The Mug’s Game

Okay, so I finished a chapter of the new book yesterday, and Kath and Ian both read it.  (Kath’s the wife, Ian’s the son. Emma the daughter is too busy these days to read her dad’s stuff, though she wants to.)

The thing I appreciate about Kath as a reader is that she has zero tolerance for genre cliches, and she’s hyper attuned to interpersonal relationships. If I start shorthanding the relationships — basically, making the reader assume more than they should about how two characters feel about each other, or leaving blank what should be there, so that the action becomes impossible to interpret — she’ll call me on it.

Now, sometimes I ignore her. Sometimes I’m deliberately holding back on information on a character, or what one character thinks of another, to pay it off later. Sometimes I want the reader to lean in, to work for what the character is thinking. But, yeah, sometimes, I’ve just missed the boat.

As was the case in this chapter. There are two secondary characters who are inadequately fleshed out. One of them, I deliberately left mysterious. But the other, I thought I’d provided enough info so the reader could sense what their relationship was. I was wrong. Thank Jebus I’ve usually got time to rewrite, and I can fix this stuff before it goes out in the world.

Now Ian. Ian is thirteen, and he doesn’t give a rat’s ass about interpersonal relationships. He’s after the bang, and the comedy, and the action, and if I don’t deliver that, he will be ON me. In this chapter, he was happy to get some of the bang and comedy. (The bang is the thrill of the new. The comedy is self-explanatory. And action is plot, taking arms against a sea of troubles, etc.) Not much action in this chapter. This was one of those sections where I needed to load the bases hit by hit, so that expectation was built to a fever pitch…

But it’s a balancing act. I want, crazily enough, to satisfy everyone, everywhere, all the time. I don’t like to admit this. Writers aren’t supposed to care about their readers that much. And really, there is no way to please everyone all the time. It’s a mug’s game to try. But I’m a mug.

So, instead of writing the next chapter, in the next few days I’ll be going back over the last chapter, seeing if there’s a way to satisfy both those readers: a bang that means something.

I’ll let you know if I figure out how to do that.

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One thought on “The Mug’s Game

  1. That sounds exciting! Good for you.

    I recently started revising my epic novel, and it feels amazing to be shaping it into something I’m not embarrassed to share with others.

    If you’re interested in a third reader to try to satisfy (now we’re getting into unpossible territory :-), I could also give it a read through and make some petulant demands.

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