Trusting the Reader


Lee Child trusted the reader to know without reading. . .

Lee Child trusted the reader to know without reading. . .

A few years back I was at a Dominion Post Writer Series night with the guest of honour the mighty Lee Child. He is, quite simply, THE MAN. If you want to read a novel that makes you stay up all night to finish it in one sitting, then you need not go any further than Lee Child. His skill at suspense is legendary and I have written an article dissecting one of his scenes. (For the record I talked to him for about sixty seconds as he signed a copy of 61 Hours, the cover of which is to the right. We talked about babies and nappies and kids never getting easier, even when they leave home.)

A topic Lee Child covered during the main event was trusting the reader. He said during his time with the TV industry that they had a three step process:

1)Tell the viewer that they were about to be told something
2)Tell the viewer something.
3)Tell the viewer that they have been told something.

I.E smash them over the head with ‘the something’ to make sure they have gotten it. He began his writing career doing the same in his novels, but as he and his writing matured, he decided he would trust the reader to understand without being bludgeoned.

The case in point? The ending of the book 61 Hours. Many who read the book were concerned about the survival of the hero, Jack Reacher but all the information needed to know he was alive and well was in the text. What Lee had done was not spell it out, or for another cliché, join the dots for the reader. The dots were on the page but he left it to the reader to join them.

In some ways this is a risky business, but in other ways it can be very rewarding. The reader feels good about themselves when they figure something out. If an author trusts the reader like this, the reader learns to trust the author back. But trust is hard earned and easily lost. There is a balancing act where the author needs to show JUST enough dots.

How does this apply to And Here The Wheel? I too am trusting the reader. My point of view characters see the world in very different ways and these conflict with each other. One may view his action’s as just while the other sees them as barbaric. One man’s self defence is another man’s needless slaughter.

At one point my main character refers to the nastiness of an ancient battle but gets the country wrong. I’m trusting that the reader has picked up enough dots and figured out my character so they know that the author (me) hasn’t screwed up but in fact this is what my character actually thinks. Its right for him to make this mistake. It feels right that he is wrong.

My hero also talks a particular way, not always correct in his grammar. He wouldn’t get a pass mark at Stanford or Oxford, let’s put it that way. But have I written the novel poorly or is this appropriate for his background? Well this one in particular is a very fine balancing act. I’m not going full on phoenetic or anything silly like Iain Bank’s Feersum enjin but I am trying to hint that his background is different from the other characters without detracting from the reading of the novel.

These things take trust. I’m trusting you to get it. In turn hopefully you’ll learn to trust me not to screw it up.

Editing Progress

‘Editing Round Number 2’ is well underway. Chapters have been sent to Fantastic Books Publishing and they have been returned with comments. I am still going flat-out incorporating alpha reader advice into the latest edit.

Here is this weeks progress meter:

Progress Meter

 

Page 274/ 601 (45.5%)

 

Not as far as I had hoped to get this week. I’ve tried to go ‘balls to the wall’ but I’m running out hours. I am literally doing two jobs at the moment, doing the family stuff and then squeezing in the novel in every spare minute. Its fair to say that sleep has given up on me and gone next door for company. Never mind. I will keep pushing and I will sleep when I’m dead. . . which may be soon if I don’t get sleep. (Talk about a vicious cycle).

Fantastic Books Publishing
FBP_Logo_Tag_CMYK_BANDW

Everything is going great here. As above I’ve already had some great feedback from their editors. Together we are going to make this the biggest Elite novel ever. (or tied for first with Drew Wagar’s Elite:Reclamation).

I’m really excited about the opportunity Drew and I have here. With two books under one publishing wing, both books being marketed as a set and with Fantastic’s, Drew’s and my own social media drive we are sure to get the word out to everyone and hopefully show Gollancz a few things about how to write Elite fiction.

So because Fantastic Books Publishing are doing all this awesome stuff for me, do you think you will be able to stop past their crowd funding campaign and think about chipping in? every dollar helps. Right now they around $23,000 USD behind their target and need everyone’s help. Did I mention they are making audiobooks? Do you want Elite audiobooks? Look this way!

Commander’s Log Podcast
Commander's Log Cover art

Recording happened late last week. Drew and I chatted for nearly an hour about Elite, our novels, Fantastic Books and the publishing process and our plans. We also discuss a certain freakin’ awesome battle scene and we slip in a game of thumb war for good measure. I also have Jamie Treacher, a talented composer, along as well so when I find a spare minute I’ll edit it. Shouldn’t be too far away 🙂

And because I try to take any plugging opportunity that comes my way, the link for the last podcast episode is below:

Episode 10A “Tianve Terrors”

Supporter’s Page

The eagle eyed of you might have noticed that there has been some changes to the supporters page. I’ve removed most of the support tiers that were previously available. Alpha reading for example is no longer available. I’ve also removed the ability to pre-order the novel. This is no longer care of myself. Fantastic Book Publishing will be looking after this (and honouring all pre-orders). I will be talking to Fantastic later about re-opening pre-orders closer to the launch date.

Because we’re past half way into this campaign to make ‘And Here The Wheel’ a reality I’ve discounted the cost to jump on board as a newsletter supporter. It’s also not too late to sign up for beta reader access but you’d better be quick for this one as I’m looking to get beta copies out early October.

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Thanks everyone for stopping by. anything of interest in this update? Feel free to share it with your friends. Comments as always are appreciated also.

-John

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2 responses to “Trusting the Reader

  1. Great stuff John.

    As I’ve said before I’m a big fan of Lee Child, since a friend who was moving to Oz left me a pile of books he couldn’t transport, which included The Visitor. I’m still troubled that Tom Cruise was chosen to play Reacher in the film of One Shot, regardless of how well he acted, as it just wasn’t the Jack Reacher I know.

    I’m glad you’ve chosen to leave things for us readers to guess/figure out about what’s going on. I love to be surprised in a story, and too often the spoonfeeding leaves a sour taste. For me, when I read 61 Hours, I wasn’t sure how he survived, but there were enough crumbs left that the solution percolated in the back of my mind. I liked it, and it would have been more or less obvious to other readers. Great.

    I also think I must be hungry, what with all the metaphors using food!

    Keep up the good work.
    Steve

    • Hi Steve.

      Hard to see a tall, blonde, 220lb man being played by Tom Cruise. I haven’t seen the movie but Im sure one day I will.

      Funnily enough at that writers night Lee Childs was asked about Tom Cruise and he assured us that he had brought the rights but had no intention of playing the part. He said when he was in Australia the crowd asked who should play jack reacher. being in Oz he said hugh jackman. then being in NZ telling us this story he played up the whole pandering to the ockers angle. He is a man who knows his audience.

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