Alrighty. I’ve got this theory, and I’d like to share it with you: reading books from the perspective of a writer will rarely give you an accurate impression of what your readers think when they read.
Let me explain.
I’m a writer. As a wordsmith, I enjoy clinkin’ and clangin’ at the old literary anvil, producing text that’s strong and sharp. Or so I hope.
The problem is that to be a writer, you consciously have to notice things in writing that other people usually don’t (literary techniques, word usage, etc.). We’re able to analyze the structure and elements of a story, poem, or any other piece of writing.
Why is that a problem? Because as a writer, you tend to project your unique perspective onto your readers. You see the literary world in a certain way—you notice adverbs, plot devices, and dialogue attributions because you’re trained to use them yourself—and you assume that every component of your writing has the same effect on your readers.
But I’d wager that most readers don’t care about the details that you and I, as writers, give meaning to and obsess over. Take dialogue attributions. I’ve seen it mentioned in more than one manual on writing that “said” is the only attribution you should use. “Said,” it is said, is stealthy, invisible.
To use another attribution is to draw attention to your writing and to take your readers out of the moment.
“I hate you” whispered Oliver. NO!
“I hate you” said Oliver. YES!
But, wait, no, it actually doesn’t because most readers are NOT usually reading a work with writers’ eyes. The analysis above is based on already knowing a rule, one that frowns upon using anything but “said.” A rule that was established by someone else and which has a reasoning behind it, a very subjective bit of reasoning.
So when you see “whispered” or “yelled” or “muttered,” your writer’s brain goes “What the fuck?” and you frown.
Non-writers? Totally oblivious. Their frame of mind is different from a writer’s; they point out different things that they love or hate. Don’t believe me? Scan reviews for popular and not so popular books on Amazon and other websites. You can tell almost write away who reads a book from a writer’s perspective and who represents the average reader. What they point out is VERY different
Seriously, when was the last time you heard an average reader complain about the minutiae writers tend to notice?
So, the next time you’re deciding whether to use a technique or not, think about how you’re looking at your own writing: are you seeing your work through the eyes of a writer who knows a ton of rules, or are you seeing it through the eyes of the average reader who is oblivious to 90% of that stuff?
Ok. Un-ruffling feathers.
But that’s just my humble opinion. What do you guys think? Do writers and readers view books differently, or do we all notice the same things and just express them differently?