Monday, July 3

The Heart of the Matter

This post is from 2011. I've edited it some, but I'm using it again because Duane and I were just talking about how lucky we were that emotion is such a huge part in whatever art you participate in. I don't think when I wrote this that I understood it was emotion I was talking about. But it was. It was.


Have you ever thought about the "feel" of books? Not just when you’re writing them, but when you’re reading them, too. I know they’re classified, genre-ed, and sub-genre-ed to where there shouldn’t be any surprises when you pick one up, but it doesn’t always work out.

There is a prolific, multi-MULTI-published romance writer who writes warm and fuzzy, family and community, small-town books. She’s extremely popular, has great covers and wonderful titles, and even lives (and places her stories) in a part of the country that fascinates me. This is all right up my cooking-baking-sewing Midwestern alley. However—and here’s the biggie—I absolutely cannot read her books. Her voice doesn’t speak to me. Her stories do not feel right when I read them.

Another writer lives in the same part of the country, is prolific, too, and writes the same sort of book. I pre-order her releases so I don’t even have to wait an extra day. Obviously her voice does speak to me. Even better, her stories feel right. They inform, they entertain, and they make me laugh. And sniffle. Sniffling’s important.

A visitor at church yesterday told me she loved my weekly newspaper column, Window Over the Sink. “It makes me feel,” she said, “as though we’re sitting at the table together, talking and drinking coffee.” Well, I was in church, where we learn about humility, but I was absolutely thrilled with what she said and humility didn’t have a whole lot to do with it. 

This then is what I want when I write and also when I read. I want to be friends and neighbors with readers and with the characters who populate the stories I read and write. I want to feel comfortable at the table with coffee and conversation. I want, even though it’s a word often applied to a genre I don’t write and seldom read, cozy. 

What do you want to feel when you read and write? Edgy? Wrangler Emeritus D’Ann Lindun’s work
makes me want to lock my doors! Sophisticated? A writer I once knew wanted her heroines to all be slender, rich, and glamorous because she wanted to read—and write—about life as she wished it was. Fantasy fiction is huge in today’s market. So is suspense. And there are many, many wonderful writers in any type of fiction you can think of.

Even in your chosen genre, though, do you like the feel of some of it and not of the rest? Does a book your friend has read until it’s dog-eared make you want to fling it against the farthest, hardest wall?

I truly think that we, as writers, feel things very strongly; it’s nice that we also feel them differently. And that we know different isn’t a synonym for wrong.



8 comments:

  1. For me, the worst is when you've read and loved an author and then--either because you've grown or changed as a reader or they've changed as a writer--and you find you can't get through their book.

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    1. That happens, doesn't it? It did to me just recently, but only because the writer wrote an extraordinarily long book--much longer than its actual story was--and I had to skip a huge chunk of it.

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  2. Great post, Liz! Yup, I get it--I love the whole concept of cozy mysteries, but I got bored in several I read--maybe I need to keep looking. I can't read horror or sci-fi or erotic, although one of my crit partners writes fabulous paranormal erotic romance that has a sci-fi flavor and her world-building is so amazing, I'm immediately transported into her work. You never know what's going to touch you or how...

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    1. I love the idea of cozies, and I do better reading them if they're British--that somehow seems right. I must admit, though, that I've become much more picky about my reading material and I think some of the reason is the lack of emotion in many new books. It's a trend, I guess, and one I'm not comfortable with.

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  3. Yes, cozy, neighborly -- that's what I like in a story, too. The best books are the ones where I feel like I've made a new friend, and after I finish reading I wonder about them as if they're living their lives ... somewhere.

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    1. I do that, too! Isn't it great when it's like that?

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  4. Depending on my mood, I want different things from a book. Often it's that small-town friendly feeling, and sometimes it's a more edgy suspense. Sometimes it's non-fiction and I want to learn something. But I guess the common thread is always good storytelling. I'll read all kinds of books as long as the story is good.

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    1. Author's voice can sure make the difference. It doesn't even have to be that good of a story for me if the telling of it is good.

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