Thursday, November 27, 2014

How Does Your Reader Feel?

On the telephone with a family friend, she brought up something interesting:
She not only asked about characters as if they were real. My friend believed that my rate of progress (drafts that I'd shown her) was greater than how I felt about my output. What I saw as the tip of the iceberg, she viewed as a great deal and fascinating. It not only opened my eyes to what I was attempting to accomplish, but lifted a veil of discontent I had been feeling for weeks.
There is no excuse for it, the feeling of inadequacy a creator feels for the project. Is it because we as creative types strive to outdo our last job? Does this feeling help us to create better and hopefully stronger each time?

Earlier fans of my storytelling was my oldest niece. Or rather, she being younger, became an unwilling audience once my stories became tiresome.

School friends were my next readers, except I was known as the Artist, illustrating my tales first.
One summer in 1989 (I think), stuck in summer school for math and all of us watching "Summer School" vhs tape from the library, I completed a full comic story. I used notebook paper and my favorite writing pens at the time. I used highlighters for color. I used a copier machine, and then, passed the copies around (I think they were two) during class. I'd like to feel this helped me and my classmates get through the monotony. By the time the booklets were passed around, everybody had their opinions: the story was good but the ending was rushed, or they didn't like how the hero's problem was solved so coincidentally. These comments came from friends and foes alike. And though I was annoyed by the reactions at the time (so sue me! I was 12-14 years old), I learned how much I had to delay resolutions. There had to be delayed satisfaction and a solution (if any) solved organically.

Fast forward to a secretarial position with the public education district office, and another short story was published. With many of my tales and ideas, I use my latest obsessions or readymade knowledge. Mine at the time was the history of the Middle east. Always fascinated by the cultures that gave us astronomy, algebra and the number zero, I decided it was time I wrote another story within my 'Tabber the Red' series. These are standalone yet linked stories set on a feline world. Yet, unlike what I was reading and seeing on shelves, my cats were upright, wore clothing, had different cultures, religions, were separated by ethnic groups and/or nations. So much like our world but so different.

My story took place during the ancient world of the lynx people. There was a messianic figure and the prophecy that drew him and his followers. Adventures ensued and this was one such tale. When my editor learned I could draw, he insisted I illustrate my story. I drew a caracal (a lynx cousin that inhabits the deserts) character wearing a head covering. The story was published both online and in a trade paperback edition. When I told one of my coworkers, who had showed interest in my writing, a budget analyst, about how to easily obtain the story, she told me that I must never give a story away. She told me that when it was available in print, she would purchase it.
I belatedly realized my coworker was Muslim and began to wonder if she would take offense to my story.
Later, she exclaimed excitement to me about the story and its characters. She thought that the Middle Eastern flavor of the book was thrilling. Its dark fantastic undertones she brushed off as she was used to reading horror. I was elated and told her I was glad she enjoyed it. That coworker told me she would keep up with my stories from now on.

Again and again, there is validation to this lonely life. It never fails to excite me that such seclusion from living in one's head can still lead to touching others.

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