A New Life in Seattle

A New Life in Seattle
August, 2018

Saturday, March 11, 2017

It's Bi-Way or the Highway When It Comes to Books

A lot of writers out there prefer the other expression:

And, let's be honest, so do a lot of readers.

A My Way writer expects crowds to follow wherever his book wants to go--screw any and all expectations or rules. So readers run into undisciplined books filled with boring or madcap digressions...promising scenes that peter out or veer off in other directions...characters that disappear or are completely inconsistent...Or the novels seem unending--hundreds of thousands, even millions, of words. Literary circuses of font colors and typographical stunts.

A My Way reader wants a book that resembles other books written the way s/he feels books should be done. I met a lot of My Way readers in the ten years I worked in two book stores. In the Mystery section, some readers were ultra-specific. They wanted books by either male or female authors only: Sue Grafton, Jonathan Kellerman, Sarah Paretsky, Robert Crais. Or they wanted mysteries set in particular cities with male or female heroes who work in their own professions: banking, advertising, etc. Furthermore, they wanted books written in the Right Style: cozy or hardboiled, slowburning or quick, character or plot-based.

This isn't meant to ridicule either My Way writers or readers. Still, the extreme My Way writer resembles a delusional online game tyrant. In the 80's, when Horror was huge, a few of the bigger names liked to proclaim: Screw your agent and/or your publisher if they give you any grief--write whatever you want and then move along if you have to. Some writers took it to the next level: screw the reader too--our job's to write, their job's to read. There's no read to wonder where such writers are today...or their books. The real world, including the real reading world, simply doesn't work that way,

But don't stop there. The extreme My Way reader resembles a porn aficionado.

Extreme My Way readers can't get into a novel that fails to meet all their specifics--from the hero's height to where s/he works to the style of the prose. A repeat experience is the supreme goal...just as it is with adult films. Take your pick from endless lists: black, white, Asian...oral or anal,..soft or garish lighting...splashy or unsplashy...

Getting back, though, to writing and reading: Bi-Way or the Highway offers more elegant kicks and rewards.

A Bi-Way writer finds freedom in following--and occasionally breaking--the conventions of his/her art. When s/he breaks the rules, it's with the reader in mind, a shock-enhanced experience. Whether s/he writes plainly or likes to ride the purple page, again it's with thoughts of the reader's delight. 

A Bi-Way reader seeks a fresh, not a repeat, experience. This reader has a comfort zone that s/he likes to indulge. There are types of rides that s/he likes best. But s/he is always open to something totally different...so long as it's done well. The style may be plainer or packed with more word play, more thoughtful or thought-free than his/her usual fare. S/he doesn't mind. S/he only cares that the writer does ask with his/her pleasure in mind:

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