Haven't posted a blog here in a week, so it's time. Because, you know, I try to post at least once a week. I can't manage to post every day, but once a week--you can check by and see what's new, but I don't overburden anybody. (Especially me!) (I'll get round to the topic in the title, eventually. Bear with me.)
I did an essay for Dear Author on Why I Read and Write... Y'all can go read it. And tomorrow, I'm posting a blog at To Be Read: So Many Authors, so little time... about how I'm so forgetful. (I was supposed to blog on Monday over there.) So it's not as if I haven't been blogging at all.
I have been thinking, off and on, about readers and authors and the relationship between them. It started with all the sound and fury over the fourth Twilight book, when so many readers got all up in arms about the way Meyers finished her series. Then I wandered across the post at John Scalzi's Whatever blog about "Pissy fans," which got me to thinking again (though it's really about other factors). Plus, there is the perennial Hate for Laurell K. Hamilton for the direction she's taken Anita Blake--which doesn't bother me at all. I still glom onto the books... Suzanne Brockmann even had problems with readers getting upset because certain characters got together with characters other than those that were expected--or hoped for. And now, I think all of that thinking has gelled to the point where I know what I think, and I think maybe I know why I think it. (Profound, I know.)
This may relate to a long-ago post of mine (I'm not going to go look it up right now because I'm supposed to be doing Bulletin Board) about Protecting the Work. Because I firmly, truly and deeply believe The Story Belongs To The Writer.
That's why I started writing stories in the first place. So I could tell the story I wanted to tell. My story, not somebody else's.
I read Hamilton's books to see where she's taking the characters. I'm along for HER ride, not mine. If I didn't like where they were going, I wouldn't ride along--I've stopped reading a number of authors for just that reason (George R.R. Martin's series among them--well written books, but not for me)--but I sure as heck wouldn't get mad at them for not writing the story I wanted. Because it ain't my story. It's theirs.
I think this is why I stopped writing fan fiction long before I really got to writing my own stories. I understand loving the characters and wanting certain things to happen. I can even understand feelings of ownership, because of that huge love, but guess what? Readers don't own the characters. And if the author sufficiently motivates the event--the love affair with the new/different character than the one the reader wants/expects, say--I'm perfectly willing to go with it.
In the case of Brockmann's Dark of Night, in which characters who have been pining for each other through five or six books wind up with someone completely different, the book worked perfectly for me. I think in part it's because "real life" doesn't always work out like we want it to--but if we're open, we can see that the change of plans is even better than what we originally thought we wanted. Maybe the folks who got all upset are that way in real life too--wanting what they want without being open to the possibility of something else. Or maybe not.
My point is--and I hope it's clear that I have one--the relationship between readers and authors must include the recognition and acceptance of the fact that The Story BELONGS to The Author.
By publishing a book, we are inviting the reader to come along on the journey with us, whether for one book, or fourteen--but the author is still the one in the driver's seat. That's just the way it is, my dears.
If you want to tell a different story, Go for it! Write the story the way YOU want it to go. But please, use your own characters and your own universe. And that story will belong to you. Until then, enjoy the ride!