Saturday, September 4, 2010

T is for Trust

Trust is essential in any relationship, but today I want to talk about the trust one places in an author.

I don't like to over-analyze books. In fact, before college I don't think I even knew how to analyze books (no offense to the efforts of my IB English profs). Sure, we went over plots and character motivations, and maybe a little of the historical context, but that was only to "Classics". It wasn't until college, when we began delving into...less classical literature, that my training began to impede on pleasure.

After a while, it becomes all about "the author's message". "What do you think the author meant by that?" "Could the author have been trying to comment on the economy of the time?" "Do you think the author's classical education influenced their choice in subject?" Um...does it really matter?

Sure, depending on the book, the author's message might be the main point of the novel. George Orwell's 1984 is often read as his warning against giving the government too much power. And one might read J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series and find her support of gender/race/gay equality. But sometimes a story is just a story, and I'd like to be entertained for a little bit.

For the most part, I like to give authors full control and follow along. I hardly ever question plot conveniences or the society's norms. If she puts in an alien invasion the night of a jailbreak, I go along with it. If he says C can't speak to T because it's taboo, I feel sorry for them, but go along my merry way. I'm being told a story, and the story's not mine to tell.

I will admit, I've had my tiffs with authors in the past. Sometimes a pairing isn't what I wished it would be, or the hero runs into a burning building for no apparent reason, and I'm absolutely seething. "Why doesn't A see E is perfect for her?" "Why the heck did R do that?!"

Most of these disagreements occur when readers think that the author's character is acting...well, out-of-character. "If A supposedly likes someone, has liked him for a long time, then why does she fall for this new guy at the drop of a hat? Even after he's a jerk to her? She's better than that!" Or... "R's smart and cool-headed, there's no way he would risk his life like that. I can't believe the author's pushing him for the sake of the plot!"

Well, I have to repeat my earlier sentiment... You're being told a story, and the story's not yours to tell. The characters belong first and foremost to the author, and you've got to trust the author enough to know them inside and out and get their story right.

There have been quite a few times where, after going back and re-reading the story to find 'support' for the author's 'claims', I've been pleasantly surprised to find it. For example, I didn't think A and B were really right for each other upon my first reading, but after going back with a more open mind...I found that they truly did fit.

And once I stopped obsessing about how wrong the author was, it made reading the story much more enjoyable. Trusting the author, getting lost in the story, it's a whole different experience.

Next time you're hating a book because your 'Team' didn't win, you might want to try re-reading with a little more trust. Trust me on that.

Some T Books I've Read:

A Terrific T Group:

The T Font: