Writers need readers. We want to share our stories with other people, and it’s a bonus if those people respond to what they read and let us know what they think. We already know that our first relationship with a reader occurs on the page, so it’s important to tell the best story we can, written the best we can write it.
Recently, I read a note mystery novelist Hope Clark wrote in her April 8, 2016 newsletter, FundsforWriters. She calls the relationship writers have with readers friendship. I’m not sure I agree with that term exactly despite the give-and-take between people contained within that word. I understand, however, that calling the relationship a friendship acknowledges its special nature. People who are complete strangers read our writing and feel that they make a connection with us on the page. As Hope wrote:
Whether you write poetry, scripts, freelance features, nonfiction, memoir, or novels, your goal is to touch minds with a reader. And if the stars align, and you write like an angel, you connect with many readers, making them think you are of like souls.
Writers are also readers. Voracious, and hopefully eclectic readers who experience another writer’s work through a slightly different lens than a reader who isn’t a writer. I know that when I read, I notice style, voice, syntax, word choice, pacing, as well as structure, character development, plot, and dialogue. How a writer uses language to tell a story, that fascinates me. But I know that many people read only to enjoy a good story, to be entertained, to have their emotions aroused, or the mind stimulated in some way. I read for those reasons, too. In support of her idea of friendship between writer and reader, Hope Clark wrote:
Think of yourself as a reader, and remember that special book that touched you once upon a time. The author reached across the void with characters, storytelling, and voice, and made you believe they understood you as a human being. The author deemed you credible, and you felt the same in return.
This is where I part company with Hope Clark: when I’m reading, I’m not thinking that the writer has understood me personally as a human being. I think that the writer was successful (or not) in illuminating some universal truth of the human condition. Maybe it’s because I’m a writer, but I don’t think the writer of the book, short story, or article I’m reading is writing to me specifically. I know when I write, I’m writing for myself in actuality, to satisfy the need to express myself and share the stories my imagination gives me.
Now, from a marketing and promotion perspective, it’s great to foster friendship with readers, to make them feel special in some way. We as writers want people to read our stories, to buy our books, and to continue to read what we write over the years. Hope Clark puts it this way:
But friendship with your readers means more these days. Once your writing passes muster, you are expected to be readily available online. You are also expected to respect the reader, because they invested time into the reading of your words. Not only do you want to feed them the words they want to hear, but you want to let them know you appreciate them for giving you attention in return
The internet has given writers a tool with which to connect even more easily with their readers. It gives us a way to value our readers, appreciate them, communicate with them, and learn from them, in addition to meeting readers face-to-face during book tours. The internet also gives readers a place to meet and talk about books, e.g. Goodreads. I love hearing from my readers! I wish more people were reading Perceval’s Secret and using the internet to communicate their reaction to it, whether directly to me via e-mail or at this blog, or in reviews posted at Amazon, B&N, or Goodreads (or elsewhere).
Hope Clark cautions in her note that writers write not for sales or Facebook likes, but for that “intimate” relationship with our readers. I would add that I write to experience my intimate relationship with myself and my imagination, and to explore human behavior.
Why do you write? How do you think of your readers?