The Fortunate Gullibility of Readers

Note to self: Readers are extremely gullible and easily fooled. They want to believe and they want me to fool them. That’s why they bought my novel. They wish to travel to another world, experience another life, perform heroic deeds, be another person. While immersed in the bubble of my book, they will ignore the impossible, accept the unacceptable and willingly surrender to my every whim.

Second note to self: Don’t burst that bubble, because these gullible readers will not forgive me for destroying their illusion. They will simply walk away and seek another illusionist.

I am, first and foremost, a reader. I read far more than I write, so I know what readers want from a popular fiction, genre writer such as myself. They want to place themselves in my hands and be told a story. They don’t want to read a story, they want it read to them. They want the words on the page to do all the work and their only input should be to turn a page or tap a screen and open their eyes.

Does this make readers lazy? Of course it does (I speak from experience, remember). But they have paid for their leisure. They have given me an amount of money in exchange for a journey. It’s less a book purchase, than a ticket to ride.

They will settle down and open the book, and at this point they are willing me to succeed. They are cheering me on, waving a flag, roaring my name. They believe in me. I am, in this moment as their eyes drift toward the opening word, a Writing Messiah.

No pressure there, then.

But I have to speak to them from the opening line. I must say, “Look, this opening may be boring or convoluted or confusing or silly or terrible (perhaps all of them), but it’s deliberate. I have valid and compelling reasons. Stick with me. Trust me. Sometimes a wonderful train journey begins with a rough shunt and whiplash. But the movement becomes smoother, the train emerges from the dark and gloomy station and soon you will be in the sunshine admiring the view from your window.”

And do you know what? Most readers will hang around. Some of them will actually be happy they have not been immediately jolted out of their chair by throat-grabbing opening sentence or something alarming like a gruesome murder, an interplanetary battle or a character who is a politician. They are happy to settle into the book. I will then have some time – perhaps only a few pages – to reveal my intentions, which, I assure you, are entirely honourable.

And as a reward for your faithfulness, I will take you with me on a fabulous adventure to places you have never imagined, with people you will love and loathe, situations which place you in mortal danger and you will experience all the highs and lows of a life fully lived, leaving you breathless at the conclusion and wishing my novel would never end.

Well, that’s the intention…

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