Does what you bring to a book matter?

If you give a group of writers a prompt, you might be amazed at the variety of tales that result. The same photo of a rose might inspire one to write about a first love, another to write about his mother’s funeral, and still another to write of a serial killer who leaves one in the hand of each victim. Your life experience influences what you write. In the same way, it influences how you read a book.

If you give a group of writers a prompt, you might be amazed at the variety of tales that result. The same photo of a rose might inspire one to write about a first love, another to write about his mother’s funeral, and still another to write of a serial killer who leaves one in the hand of each victim. Your life experience influences what you write. In the same way, it influences how you read a book.

My novel The Brevity of Roses has received a number of reviews, mostly at Amazon and Goodreads, and I’ve read them all. I didn’t think I would. I said I wouldn’t. I should have known I’d be too curious not to. I know reviews are meant for other readers, not the author, but the varied responses to the book I wrote interests me.

The latest reviewer wrote:

For the record, I am a 100% male reader. I am not a love story genre fan but I found this love story to be compelling.

The Brevity of Roses is NOT a romance novel. It is a thought provoking story of the love between people of different age groups and social backgrounds.

The writing is very well crafted. The characters are developed carefully and seem to spring to life. I felt like they were staring back at me from the page.

This fine debut novel is a story of complex relationships. The complexity level is dependent on the amount of thought given by the reader.

The emphasis on NOT was his. I assume he was disagreeing with the previous reviewer (on Amazon) who titled his review “A good romance novel”. I didn’t set out to write a romance novel, so I don’t view Brevity as one, but if some readers do, I understand that. And maybe it’s only a contradiction of terms; what one calls a love story, another calls a romance novel.

One thing I love about reading is the individuality of the transaction between the author and myself. I ask for a story, and the author gives me one, but I might not be able to drink every drop of the story the author tells. The author can only fill the glass I bring to it. To some extent, the size and shape of that glass determines the story I imbibe.

As a reader, I suspect that sometimes part of a story ran over the side of my glass and dribbled off my chin. What can I do? I drank what I could. As an author, certainly, I’m thankful for all my readers, dribblers or not, but I admit that the deeper they drink, the more gratifying that is.

5 thoughts on “Does what you bring to a book matter?

  1. Reading is a very individual experience, it’s not strange different readers receive different impressions from the same book.
    But of course it’s much more fun for the author when the reader receives a greater experience 🙂

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  2. It seems to me that, as a writer, you can only build the road the reader must travel for exposure to your landmarks. You can’t do much about the vehicle they have available (intellectual, emotional capacity, vocabulary, concentration, focus, etc etc) or their driving skills. Like you, I’ve allowed some people’s precious writing to dribble down my bib because I didn’t quite get what they meant, or I wasn’t in the mood or the right ‘place’. Other times, I believe (subjective judgement of course) that I did get it and took in the whole thing. However, I’m reminded of a paragraph that came up in one of the writing courses I did recently, where a critique of the piece had exposed layers of intriguing nuance. The author said, actually, it was just something she rather liked at the time!
    So, you give some people a clear highway and they will insist on taking the scenic route.

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    1. “So, you give some people a clear highway and they will insist on taking the scenic route.” Yeah, there’s that. Of course, if someone reads something unintended–but fabulous–into my writing, I just smile and pretend I was just that clever. 😉

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