Monday, January 21, 2013

Don't Tell me What Color the Sky is

I was talking to my mother the other said about the first version of my book's cover. She likes to hear about what is happening with my book, partly because she is an avid reader and is interested in the learning about the publishing process, and partly because, like any good mother, she takes an interest her son's life.

I mentioned to her that one of the odd things about the cover image is the sky was an auburn-rust sky which is completely wrong. The sky should be blue. She remarked, since this is fiction, the sky can be any color in the rainbow. I replied, that's true but I wrote the story. I made the sky blue at the outset.

This anecdote illustrates one of the things I expect to happen once my novel is released. I expect people to tell me how reality works. These people will think they know more than I do and will want to demonstrate it but ranting on that a bard would never be hired as a guard especially of something so valuable as a magic gem.

What these people forget is that I set the rules for the story. Sure, the rules mirror the world in which we live. That's necessary so that the reader will recognize enough of my world and hopefully suspend his or her disbelief. But there are differences. So don't tell me what color the sky is or how magic works or whether or not a fifteen-year-old boy can become a master of martial arts. Because if you do I won't be listening. These are details I selected and I'm not changing them. And since this is my sandbox, my rules prevail. If you think you can do better, write your own story.

And there's the rub, you see. It is very hard to write a good story and harder still to get it published. But it is easy to criticize and complain.

What these people don't know is that I've already made many changes to my story. The first draft looks nothing like the one that's being published because I changed the most glaring parts that made not sense to anyone. I did this without being told, "Change that!" Rather I made adjustments as a result of repeated rejections. And yet at no time did the characters change; the plot changed a little and continues to do so as I develop and flesh it out but that's normal in the writing process.

I say this because I know many writers who believe in artistic integrity. What the writer says goes. And that's true, but only up to a point. After all, if your story is so poor the reader cannot suspend their disbelief, it won't matter what the color of the sky is.

Hopefully most people will like the story and the ranters will keep quiet. We'll see soon enough. The novel is due out in about two months now. I can hardly wait.

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