She Said, She Said

You Lookin' At Me?

You Lookin' At Me?

One of the coolest things about all art is the interpretation. Debates go endlessly about movies, books, paintings, poems, sculptures. And who's to say who's right and who's not when we can't even agree what's art and what isn't.

In trying to get feedback on my book, I've been giving out copies to my friends and family to get initial reactions, both kneejerk and constructive. I had readers who are fans and non-fans of fantasy, which is my genre.

One of my readers stated that my main character was highly sexual and emotional. I wanted honest opinions and here we are!

My kneejerk reaction was of course to defend.

My toof?

My toof?

But I'm here to learn so I asked her question after question, trying to keep an open mind.

None of my other readers had mentioned any of this. And just in case they missed something my friend hadn't, I asked one of them specifically about the above points.

Yummy!

Yummy!

Highly sexual was something that really surprised me. I asked her what made her think this. She said that my hero thought about his wife's scent, was enamored by her silky hair, and in a key scene couldn't sleep due to the absence of her breathing next to him. I asked another female reader what she thought about this without mentioning what my friend thought. She said my hero was in love with his wife that it was about love.

Who's correct?

Both.

There's a saying. What you hate in others is what you hate in yourself. When I look at the lives of these two women, I can see why both thought the way they did.

I'm not saying they hated my book, but often what we see in art is often a reflection of us, an aspect anyway. I mean, haven't you listened to music that reflects how you feel in the moment? We listen to love songs, or angry alternative, when we've broken up with someone. Or listen to ambient music when we want to be calm. Or listen to heavy metal or techno when we're working out.

Is that garlic I smell?

Is that garlic I smell?

And knowing how 50% of sold books are romance novels tells you what women are feeling or needing.

My friend's second point, complaint really, about my hero being emotional was also interesting.  For one, he is.  It being a complaint is a judgement on the character. Kinda like saying someone being short is not good. It's not their fault.  My hero just turned out that way.

This brings us to the definition of art. First off, I don't think it can be defined. It's like defining the soul. Or God. You can't. But a famed photographer once said that art is the language of the soul. Isn't that where inspiration comes from?

But if you want to see a cool and heated debate of what art is, check out an articleRober Ebertwrote about how video games aren't art.

[poll id="30"]

Franchises

Most people abhor movie sequels. Not sure why since they usually do well in the box office. But I think the lost love comes from not being as good as the first movie. Part of that comes from character development.  With a lot of stories, the main character goes through a change like going from being unconfident to confident.  And once that's done that character becomes uninteresting.  The sequel now has to depend on plot. James Bond as a character doesn't change at all.  All of his stories are sold based on plot and fan base.  It's no wonder the actors change so much.  They have to to keep the audience interested.

Then came Casino Royale.  One of the things Bond doesn't do is fall in love.  He's a slam-bam-thank-you-mam kinda guy.  Nothing wrong with that.  He whips it out, tugs hard, holds tight, and bam.  I was talking about the gun.  But in Casino, Bond not only whipped it out--not talking about his gun--but let his love interest have it.  I'm talking about his emotions.

The man fell in love.

Add the banter between the two love birds, the plot, and a blonde Bond, and you get one of the best Bond movies ever made.  But once Quantum of Solace came out, it received mixed reviews.  And here we get into franchises.

In my search for a literary agent, I came across an article written by one.  He wrote something that made a lot of sense.  As writers, we have to know that the publishing industry is a business.  As a business, once a platform does well publishers will want to build off it to make more money.

Percy Jackson and the Olympians is a five-book series.  I haven't read the books, but I've spotted them as I walk through Borders.  There are tons of Trilogies.  But they're small potatoes.  There are book series that last a dozen books.  Some series are even ongoing.  Publishers often urge the writer to continue the series before venturing outside of that domain.

It's a business.

The problem, as stated above, is character development.  How can a writer continue to make the character interesting?  Put her through a lot of crap through plot?  Maybe.  How about having change occur in supporting characters?  Or what about creating new issues with the main character, and adding change in supporting ones?

Here's where J.K. Rowling did a great job.  As Harry grew up in those seven years, he changed just like a real person.  Shocking.  That and the red herrings, plot, the close knit friendships made for a great read.  Rowling satisfied the publishing world's philosophy of building on a fan base, but satisfied her fans by creating incredible plot with highly relatable characters.

As writers, we need to keep at heart the art but also keep an eye on the world of business.