Hooked on a Feeling: Love

Hooked on a Feeling enters its fourth installment. Today, we will take a look at love—what purpose does it play in writing, and how to evoke it within the reader.

love-in-books

For today’s post, I have enlisted the help of our mutual friend, Mr. Devil’s Advocate.

Mr. Devil’s Advocate: “Always a pleasure. Though I am a little unsure as to why you invited me today. So far, you’ve managed this miniseries largely without my help. Why would you reach out to me now?”

Ah, well, that’s the thing. Today’s subject is love, after all, and I…technically, in the strictest possible sense, according to the traditional definition, haven’t exactly, you know, uh…ever been in love.

Mr. DA: “What was that?”

*Sigh* I’ve never been in love. And I really have no point of reference in describing it. But it can’t be ignored as a feeling, and this miniseries won’t be complete without it, so I thought I would get some outside help for this one.

Mr. DA: “I see. And what makes you think I have any more experience than you in this arena?”

What, you’re telling me you don’t have a chubby succubus somewhere who’s waiting for you to call?

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Mr. DA: *Snort* “You must think very little of me, Mr. Horne. I’m a professional—I do not eat where I defecate. And even if I did, it wouldn’t be with a demon. Every advocate knows that they make great clients and terrible lovers. Like redheads, but WORSE.”

Uh…if you say so. But still, I can’t quite tackle this topic on my own. Will you please help me?

Mr. DA: “Well, I’m not ashamed to admit I have a few tricks up my sleeve in this regard. Very well, I will educate you in the ways of love, young man.”

Great. Where do we start?

Mr. DA: “We start where everything starts: in history.”

A Brief History of Love

Well, I know that love has played a large part in the literary side of history. A lot of ancient sagas and epics include love subplots.

Mr. DA: “Yeah, if you can call that love. Remind me again how Gunther and Brunhilde fell for each other.”

charles_ernest_butler_siegfried_und_brunnhilde

Well, first he tricked her into marrying him. Then he had his pal Siegfried sneak into their bedroom with his invisibility cloak so that he could hold her down while Gunther…oh.

You know, those old sagas aren’t really love stories. Maybe we should explore a different period of history.

Mr. DA: “Yes. Let’s.”

Love in Ancient Greece

erospsyche

Mr. DA: “The Greeks saw romantic love almost as a kind of madness—something that could rob a man of all reason and make him do insanely stupid things. It always ended badly for the hero.”

That sounds about right. I’m hard pressed to think of a single story from Greek mythology where love wasn’t used as some kind of precursor to punishment. Someone was always getting turned into a tree or a flower or a snake or a gorgon, or something. The only Greek romance that has a happy ending, as far as I can remember, is the tale of Eros and Psyche, but since one of those people was the physical embodiment of love itself, I don’t know if that really counts.

Mr. DA: “Put simply, the ancient Greeks might not have approved of the idea of evoking love in the reader. They might have even been receptive to the idea of someone going their whole life without experiencing it.”

Not the place we should be looking for love stories, then.

The Renaissance

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And now we’re getting somewhere.

A lot of the modern concept of love has its roots in the Renaissance. Judeo-Christian notions of sacred love had settled in during the centuries after the fall of Rome. Love—in literature, at least—was seen as something not to be exacted of someone by clubbing her head and dragging her by the hair back to your cave. Nor was it treated as a sickness or sin.

Granted, there was a great deal of pressure to emulate the ancient Greeks and Romans, so plenty of romantic tragedies still abounded, but there was also this thing called the “happily ever after”, which saw the protagonist couple end up together, often with large cash prizes attached. These prizes often came in the form of castles or kingdoms, but the message was clear: “Find true love, and riches are sure to follow.”

priceisright4

Mr. DA: “However, with the ‘happily ever after’ came another development.”

Yes. The “love at first sight” trope was also popularized. Among other things, it made writing love stories completely straightforward. The man falls in love with the woman because she is beautiful, and therefore their love is true and unbreakable.

And, honestly, society has never gotten over this. Oh, there’s been a great amount of pushback. These days, a lot of powerful people look at the “love at first sight” concept no differently than the idea of head clubbing and hair dragging. Even Disney, who used to be the strongest purveyor of this philosophy, has largely repented of it with movies like Enchanted and Frozen. But that hasn’t stopped people from watching, and even preferring, the older Disney titles.

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Not what I was talking about, but the wordplay is too delicious to pass up.

Writing it Down

Which brings us to one of our main points: how does the writer put the emotion of love into his story.

Mr. DA: “Using the ‘love at first sight’ method, it becomes a no brainer.”

True. With a bit of handwaving, we can simply have it happen without explaining it.

Mr. DA: “You might have some trouble publishing that, though.”

Also true. The powers that be demand more depth from the love stories produced by authors in this day and age. Then again, that hasn’t stopped romance novels from falling back on the classics.

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The genre has a wide umbrella, and even today puts out every conceivable variety of love story, including love at first sight, as well as forbidden love, hopeless love, urban love, country love, oppressed housewife love, lonely caterer love, rich woman in a big empty house love, klutzy girl who can’t hold down a job love, and I don’t know how long I can keep this gag going love.

So we can’t take the “love at first sight” card off the table, as it apparently has a lot of mileage still left on it, plus a free burrito on your tenth visit.

Mr. DA: “Dibs!”

Lots of people, for whatever reason, still like the traditional love story that their parents grew up with. But suppose, for the sake of argument, that you as the writer decide you want something deeper. In which case “love at first sight” isn’t going to cut it. What other options are there?

What Love Brings to the Table

But before we go any further, I am going to do what I have done with previous entries in the Hooked on a Feeling miniseries and talk about the advantages of evoking certain emotions in the reader.

Do you remember the list? Don’t worry, I’ll reprint it here.

  • Inspiration is personally transformative for your reader, and has the greatest lifelong benefit.
  • Fear ignites the suspension of disbelief, and most powerfully reinforces the illusion you are weaving around your reader.
  • Hate makes the story immortal, providing a conduit to future generations of readers.

It’s time to add another bullet point:

  • Love keeps the book in the reader’s mind, even when they are not reading it.

It’s something that every writer needs to learn. Your book’s success—by which I mean whether or not it has an impact on the reader—largely depends on what the reader does when the book is closed.

If the reader can simply get on with their life without thinking about your book ever again, then you failed to evoke any love in them. But if a book can generate the feeling of love within the reader, they won’t be able to stop thinking about it. They will have to put it down, of course, to go to school or to work or to handle whatever emergencies pop up in their lives. But later, while they are studying, or while they are doing the dishes, or even while they are lying in bed, waiting for sleep to come, they will be thinking about your book. They will be thinking about the characters in it, or the world you built, or what it all means, in the end.

This is why so many stories prioritize love, and attempt to stir feelings of it in anyone who cares to glance over the pages.

Mr. DA: “I think I get what you’re saying. But aren’t you conflating two different issues? Up until now, we’ve been talking about romantic love between characters in the story. Yet suddenly you talk about love between the reader and the book. Those aren’t the same thing.”

Even if they aren’t, there’s enough of a correlation there to reliably use one as bait to catch the other. Readers literally hold the characters in their hands, so it’s not surprising that they tend to obsess, a little, over these characters’ fates. And no fate is quite so distressing as the “will they end up together” question. It causes concern—worry, even—for the poor players upon the stage. And in the reader’s head, she says to herself, “Well, if she won’t love you, then I will.”

Case in point:

jacob

Check and mate.

How it’s Done

Mr. DA: “It sounds to me like you actually know one or two things about love.”

I know what I’ve read in books. Do not ascribe to me any more than that.

Mr. DA: “You did just say that falling in love with a book was comparable with one person falling in love with another. Are you sure, having said that, that you have never experienced love.”

*Glares*

Mr. DA: “I’m just playing devil’s advocate here.”

“Devil’s advocate” is fine. I didn’t ask for “devil’s wingman”.

Mr. DA: “Neither does the devil. That’s a free service I provide on the side.”

Regardless, we have reached the end of what I am able to give. If you have forsworn “love at first sight”, then how do you make your characters fall in love with each other, and your reader fall in love with your book?

This is why I asked you to join me today. I can’t fill in this one gap. Do you know how to set up a more complex love story?

Mr. DA: “I do indeed.

“The key to evoking love in literature is the use of reverse psychology. 100% of the time.”

*Blinks twice* What?

Mr. DA: “I’m serious. It’s no more complicated than that.”

I’m sorry—aren’t you the one who is supposed to challenge me whenever I spout absolutist statements? Why am I hearing something so deterministic from you?

Mr. DA: *Shrugs* “You’re the one who asked.

“And it’s the truth: reverse psychology can be used to make any two characters fall in love, and do it in a way that feels completely organic, deep, and fleshed out. All those people who dismiss “love at first sight” as antiquated or barbaric have espoused a system that is just as simplistic, if not more so.

“It’s so easy to do. You want two characters to fall in love? Then just give them a reason why they can never be together. This can be done in an infinite variety of ways. You can:

  • Have the lovebirds come from completely different social classes or castes.
  • Have the lovebirds come from different sides of a war between nations.
  • Have the lovebirds come from two feuding families.
  • Have one of the lovebirds contract a deadly disease that will shortly kill him/her.
  • Throw the lovebirds in a prison where unbreakable walls separate them.
  • Have the lovebirds hate each other viciously from the start.

“And there are a thousand others, but they all boil down to the same thing: you have a legitimate reason why the lovebirds could not even conceivably end up together. Once you have that, all you need to do is suggest the slightest hint that they are still attracted to each other despite all the obstacles. And that’s all it takes to convince the reader that these two should end up together. Because an impossible romance is, by definition, an underdog. And everybody LOVES an underdog (pun intended).

“A great example of this actually comes from Disney’s Frozen. Consider the two competing love interests.

hans-and-kristoff

“By the end of the movie, each of them has won the heart of Princess Anna. But Hans won it through the ‘love at first sight’ approach, so the movie tries to portray it as illegitimate, particularly because it all happened in the course of a single day (and something sinister must be happening if people fall in love after just one day together).

“Kristoff also wins the heart of Anna, and the movie portrays this as acceptable because he cannot possibly end up with her, she being already engaged to Hans and therefore unavailable. Nevertheless, the narrative hints at an attraction between the two, and therefore the audience is already rooting for them to get together. When the two realize that they actually do love each other, the discerning audience member may realize with a start that this new love happened in…how much time? Just. One. Day.

“And yet, people praised the movie for how it supposedly rewrote the rules of Disney romance. And any idiot writer can do the same thing.”

Is it really that simple?

Mr. DA: “You were expecting something complicated?”

Well, yeah. I mean, creating a convincing romance is supposed to be one of the hardest tasks in writing.

Mr. DA: “A ‘convincing romance’ is one where people are convinced that their love is genuine. But there’s no way to determine that. The people in love are so blinded by it that they have no idea what they’re doing. And the people not in love have no business telling them if they’re doing it wrong. So even if the romance you write isn’t ‘convincing’, no one can possibly call you on it without exposing themselves as a hypocrite.”

Huh. I guess, in a way, that’s the most reassuring truth I could have asked for. Looks like I made the right call by inviting you into this post.

Mr. DA: “Of course, that doesn’t mean there’s no way to do it wrong.”

The Achilles Heel

This is the part where you tell us how evoking love in the reader can blow up in the writer’s face.

Mr. DA: “Which is easy enough to explain. You remember what the Achilles heel was during the post about inspiration?”

Yes. It was sap.

Mr. DA: “The Achilles heel of love is something related to that: it’s pine.”

ponderosa-pine-utah

Oh, I get it. You’re saying that the story goes down the drain when the characters pine after each other.

Mr. DA: “Exactly. And this is a much bigger danger in modern romance than in the ‘love at first sight’ stories. Because if there is a reason why the lovebirds can never be together, the natural reaction for them is to pine and whine about it, and that can curdle your story faster than perhaps any other method. Have you ever read Stephenie Meyer’s New Moon?”

No.

Mr. DA: “Good. Because that could ruin love for you forever.”

Thanks for the heads up.

Conclusion

It appears that you don’t need to be in love to write about it (though it certainly doesn’t hurt). That’s a huge comfort to me, but more importantly, it should be a big help to anyone interested in the subject.

Love is a powerful thing, but it still follows patterns and rules, just like every other emotion. If you know how to manipulate these rules, you can cause your characters to fall for each other and even evoke a degree of love in the reader. And since you can do these things, why wouldn’t you? It will only make your writing that much more appealing to readers.

Are you hooked yet?

 

 

[This week’s tagline: “Where people come…K-I-S-S-I-N-G.”]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

17 Comments

  1. John Horne

    First of all, New Moon was the best of the Twilight books. That is to say, it was the most tightly written. It had some hokey plot devises… but forgivable ones. And it wasn’t even about love. It was about heartache and rebound. And for that reason it is an excellent example of a love story. Because what readers really want isn’t love, it’s the drama that surrounds love.

    People love to read about characters falling in love, and falling out of love, but they will not tolerate a couple for very long.

    So even if the love birds wind up together at the end, in the sequel the relationship must go horribly wrong, which is exactly what happened in New Moon.

    And here is a rule: the more perfect the couple are for each other, the more they must suffer.

    Lastly, I don’t think pining is always a bad thing. It can be done well, especially if the main character is pining for the wrong person. But I take your clever little tree themed metaphors.

    1. admin (Post author)

      I find your outlook to be extraordinarily…narrow.

      Back when Firefly was first pitched, the network executives balked at the idea that two of the characters were happily married to each other. They insisted that such was anathema to a romantic storyline. Luckily, Joss Whedon stuck to his guns and got his way, for while Firefly was a short-lived enterprise, its characters were anything but manufactured.

      The idea that a mature and stable love cannot be interesting is a fallacy, and is exclusionary to the point of being trite. Your proposition that the lovebirds must have something go horribly wrong to force them apart again is soap-opera-level writing advice.

      Love becomes more tense as it becomes more permanent, for it forces the characters into a situation where they cannot live without it. And, as such, they must make even greater sacrifices to keep it happy. Or, at least, that’s how it works in writing. The skilled writer understands how to write a love that is more than a plot contrivance.

      Have a wonderful day.

  2. John Horne

    Marriage? Marriage and love are two different things, just so you know. Throwing marriage into the discussion is the equivalent of making a strawman argument.

    When I said that the relationship must go horribly wrong in the sequel, marriage is one of the things I was talking about.

    Even happy marriages are full of the drama that you might derisively blanket-label as soap-opera-style writing. Don’t you know that married couples are fraught with conflicts of interests? Don’t you know that married couples fight? Do you not remember our parents growing up? And yet, are they not still together after all these years?

    Seriously, what did you think being in love looks like… Firefly? Please. I turned that show off after 15 minutes. I didn’t know that Joss was associated with that production. It has made me lose respect for him.

    Go fall in love Alan, then tell me that the soap-opera crap people write about doesn’t interest you.

    1. admin (Post author)

      How curious: you begin your comment by saying that love and marriage are two different things, but by the end you are trying to use your concept of marriage to defend your earlier comments about love.

      Perhaps you need time to organize your thoughts. Don’t worry—I will give you all the time you need.

      1. John Horne

        I have not contradicted myself. You are the one who is confusing love and relationship.

        1. admin (Post author)

          And you are the one confusing an exploitative plot device with actually putting emotion into a work. What exactly, are you trying to contribute?

  3. Susan

    Most writers don’t have what it takes to write a truly interesting long term relationship. They take the easy way out and have the story end with the first kiss or the moment the couple commits to each other. It takes a truly great story to keep the romance alive after the uncertainty of the lovers is over. Happily ever after stories have become the norm of mediocracy i.e. Disney movies.

    I recommend the Poldark series by Winston Graham. Mr. Graham kept the romance ‘hot’ over many decades by using well developed, flawed characters dealing with the challenges of life. May we all be as lucky!

    1. John Horne

      What you say is true.

      It is difficult to write an interesting long term relationship. I think it takes a special kind of writer with a lot of life experience, or a unique perspective, to handle something like that.

      But I might also argue that it takes a special kind of reader to read something like that. If you want to write for a young adult or new adult audience, forget about it. Not only does that readership lack the patience for it, but most won’t relate well to it, because they’ve never been in anything like a long-term relationship.

      At any rate, writing a love saga within a stable relationship is not for beginners. And Alan was clearly targeting beginners with his post

      1. admin (Post author)

        I’m afraid I was not “clearly targeting” anyone.

        And I’m not wrong, either. The idea of taking characters from a developed relationship, then breaking them apart and sending them back to square one, simply as a means of creating tension, is nothing more than a symptom of sequelitis. And, inexperienced as I may be, I have already outgrown such a tired and played-out magic trick.

        Furthermore, I would advise you not to disrespect Firefly. You may think me arrogant because I offer advice on a subject I have never experienced, but your dismissal of great works marks your hubris as deeper and redder than my own. Firefly had its issues, but it was written by a master. Be careful not to set yourself up as the authority on writing love stories, lest your wings melt in the heat of the sun.

        Have a wonderful day.

        1. John Horne

          Emphatically, as the viewer I reserve the right to opine what I please about a show no matter who wrote it. And there is nothing hubristic about that. I’m not saying I’m better than the people who wrote it, I only mean that it failed to excite me.

          Joss Whedon may be a famous writer, but does that mean I have to bow down and lick the ground that he walked on? No!

          Even masters sometimes produce drivel .

          Case in point: Firefly repelled me after the first 15 minutes: Space-captain with a colorful crew meets a girl who can beat up everyone in a bar because she’s some space-government secret-weapon. Yawn. (Am I remembering this right? It was years ago.)

          I didn’t find the world compelling. The Captain reminded me of a Han Solo rip off. And the whole thing felt clumsy.

          And a good day to you to, sir.

          1. admin (Post author)

            Let me get this straight:

            You admit that you have only watched 15 minutes of Firefly.

            You admit that you did not make more than a token investment in the series.

            You admit that you did not even know who wrote it.

            And, after all that, you declare it to be terrible, inferior to your own unpublished efforts, and launch into a tirade about how no lessons about love or marriage can possibly be derived from the show?

            How many more times are you going to embarrass yourself? Seriously, this has become so easy that I almost can’t bring myself to insult you (though I get the feeling that you won’t let me stop).

            Before your feelings get hurt again and you try to quit the blog…again, take some time to think about what you’re arguing. Ask yourself what kind of stakes are in play? Is it so important to you to coronate yourself as the authority on the subject that you are willing to attack not only my own points, but those of anyone—great or small—that happens to corroborate my thoughts?

            There is more in Heaven and Earth than is dreamed of in your philosophy. And you are still new at this. Do you really want to go around starting fires?

            Have an awesome day.

  4. John Horne

    Emphatically, as the viewer I reserve the right to opine what I please about a show no matter who wrote it. And there is nothing hubristic about that. I’m not saying I’m better than the people who wrote it, I only mean that it failed to excite me.

    Joss Whedon may be a famous writer, but does that mean I have to bow down and lick the ground that he walked on? No!

    Even masters sometimes produce drivel .

    Case in point: Firefly repelled me after the first 15 minutes: Space Captain with a colorful crew meets a girl who can beat up everyone in a bar because she’s some government secret-weapon.

    Yawn.

    1. John Horne

      Ach!

      How did that happen?

  5. John Horne

    Alan, I think there is a disconnect between our view points.

    You tend to view the writer as the heart and soul of a story. For you, the writer is king.

    But in my view the reader, the viewer, and the consumer of the story is king. I have long believed that what the reader brings to the story is more important than what the writer puts into the story.

    Maybe I didn’t give Firefly much of a chance, but if the viewer is king, then that is my prerogative. I don’t have to be in thrall to the writer, even an expert one. If anything, it is the writer’s job to serve me, not the other way around.

    Furthermore, I don’t think there is such a thing as an arrogant reader. Who can blame the reader for putting down a book that didn’t speak to him? With so many stories competing for our free time, why waste a single minute on something that fails to stimulate us?

    If I ever write a compelling story, it will be because I crafted a story that someone else will enjoy. I never want to impose my stories on an unwitting public, simply because I am famous and they should respect my authority… or because it is their job to appreciate what I’ve done.

    The reader’s job is to enjoy themselves, and nothing more.

    And I did not enjoy Firefly, at all.

    With enough persuasion I might be willing to give it a second chance. But don’t count on it, because my memories of it are pretty bad.

    Chubby Babies

    1. admin (Post author)

      The reader is king, eh? Yet you have no issue with stringing them along, building up relationships only to throw a curve ball and saying, “Never mind.”

      What you meant to say is that the reader is king when that reader is YOU. You demand accountability from a writer whenever that writer is anyone but yourself.

      You didn’t like a TV series, despite watching only fifteen minutes of it. Yet, when someone else, who watched the whole thing, tries to use an example from the series to illustrate an idea, you instantly dismiss both the idea and illustration as being instantly fallacious, because they are associated with something you didn’t like and didn’t bother to research.

      Yet you see nothing wrong with this. To which I say, where is your fifteen minutes of screen time? Who has bothered to watch your TV series?

      Imagine what would happen if you asked me to edit another of your books, and I was to return to you and say, “I have read the first page, and now know there is no truth in the entire book. I shall not bother reading the rest, and shall, without providing a real counterargument, dismiss any themes and ideas from the later parts of this book as false from the start.”

      You didn’t like the first fifteen minutes of Firefly, therefore, any anecdote from any part of the series cannot be relevant to whatever conversation we’re having? Puh-lease.

      It’s classic guilt by association. Not that you’ve ever minded resorting to such fallacies. And you kind of have to, since you have no point to make.

      Oh, and by the way, the writer is king. The readers—those travelers on the highway—may choose to forego as many kingdoms as they like. They may not want to visit Monaco or Liechtenstein, but that does not change the fact that those nations are sovereign. The writer may be a good king or a bad king. His kingdom may get many tourists or few, but he reigns there forever.

      I am so saddened that you have chosen to forever remain a tourist.

  6. John Horne

    The writer is king only if he can beguile the reader. The reader has all the power, and the writer must court that power.

    If I were to ask you to edit another one of my books (which I will eventually) you certainly have the right to get bored and say, “Nope, sorry, too boring.” And I’ll have to live with that. Such is the power of the reader.

    The reader is king, castle, and kingdom all in one. Every story that passes through on the highway must play out on the landscape of the reader’s mind. Which is never the same between two people.

    You and I have read some of the same books. What are the chances that the world that came to life in your mind was identical to the one that appeared in mine? Stories cannot exist in a vacuum. Even shows, which supply a lot of the imagery, must be interpreted in the context of the viewer’s own thoughts.

    A story is not something brought to light one-sidedly by the author. The author has a partner in the existence of a story and that is the reader. And the author must compete with other authors for the reader’s attention. But the reader doesn’t compete with other readers to make a story happen. Therefore, the reader is king.

    The author cannot be king, otherwise you would have read Sophie Kinsella, Meg Cabot, and Lauren Weisberger. All three of these women are on the same level as Joss Whedon, but you’d never read their genre in a million years. Why? Because as the reader, you are king, not them.

    And, since you are so interested in logical fallacies, you should consider your own sin of ad hominem––attacking the arguer instead of the argument. I made a general case for the reader being king and you turn and accuse me of being the only reader king, that I alone demand from authors. But this is poor form, Alan.

    On a side note, after a little digging, I now wonder if what I saw was Firefly… or if it was Serenity. If the latter, then it is possible that I found the story awkward because I came into it at the wrong time.

    1. admin (Post author)

      John, I hate to say this, but you need to stop writing. Now.

      Until you reverse your position, you are unfit to write a single line. You will never achieve success, and you are doomed to repeat the same mistakes, over, and over, and over.

      Now, let us talk about the kings and queens of the world, which are not the reader.

      You and I have read some of the same books. What are the chances that the world that came to life in your mind was identical to the one that appeared in mine? Stories cannot exist in a vacuum. Even shows, which supply a lot of the imagery, must be interpreted in the context of the viewer’s own thoughts.

      Very well, but suppose the writer were subtracted from the equation entirely. What would happen to the imaginary kingdoms then? Would we have two visions, or two interpretations, of the same kingdom? No. In such a scenario, we would have no kingdoms at all—just a white page with no words on it.

      Now, let us reverse the proposal. What would happen if the reader were subtracted from the equation. Yes, the story would become largely useless…but it would still exist. And even if the only heart and mind it touched belonged to the writer himself, it would have left an impact on the world. The reader can be erased without the story being completely wasted. Not so if we remove the writer.

      Let us try to find your next point:

      The author cannot be king, otherwise you would have read Sophie Kinsella, Meg Cabot, and Lauren Weisberger. All three of these women are on the same level as Joss Whedon, but you’d never read their genre in a million years. Why? Because as the reader, you are king, not them.

      I have never visited the countries of Monaco, Tonga, or Brunei, and yet, those kingdoms still exist and function without me. Even if I were never to visit them, they would not be diminished for it. And here is your next mistake: you assume that there is only one reader. But this world is full of millions of readers. You insist that the writer is servant to the reader, that his only purpose is to please the reader. To which I ask, which reader?

      You do realize that what attracts one reader will repel another, do you not? But of course you don’t, because when you say that the reader is king, you mean that the reader is king when that reader is YOU. “All that does not please me is dross,” you assert, without first considering whether your own judgment is less than sterling.

      Which brings me to my next point:

      And, since you are so interested in logical fallacies, you should consider your own sin of ad hominem––attacking the arguer instead of the argument. I made a general case for the reader being king and you turn and accuse me of being the only reader king, that I alone demand from authors. But this is poor form, Alan.

      I suppose it is ad hominem to point out the selfishness of my opponent’s perspective. But alas, it is a necessary evil. For when a child commits a sin, you do not spank the sin. You must, inevitably, spank the child.

      And that is what you are John—a child, so pleased with his doodlings that he thinks he has the right to redefine the nature of the beast. You are in a bad place, brother. If you continue as you are, you will be so obsessed with obeying the whims of the reader that you will self destruct as a writer. You would not be the first person to go down this path.

      I am not joking: cease all writing immediately, and until you are humble enough to reverse your position, you must never put your words to paper. To do otherwise could damage yourself in ways that might not heal.

      Now, one last point of order: I am king not only of my own writerly realm, but of this blog, as well. It may not be a large kingdom, but I control everything in it. As such, I have closed this discussion. It is good to be king.

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