Are you a writer? Do you worry that no one will like your title? Do you worry that your character won’t be relatable? Or maybe you worry that your story is not good enough, so you ask people if they like the title, character, or the story. But then you get some people saying, “No, I don’t like it.” And sometimes without helpful reasons.
When you hear that, don’t you feel frustrated? I do. I wonder, “Well, why not? What can I do so that you will like it? How can I make everyone like my book?”
Writers really want to please people or get validated. I see this all the time on Facebook, writing forums (like Wacky Writers which you should join, fun and free), and Instagram. There’s always someone asking for validation or love and if you ever see a comment like, “I don’t like it.” It’s usually followed by some vague explanation which gets more irritating because now the reason for dislike just seems like someone is plain hating on your stuff.
Let me talk to you about my experience with this.
Whenever I ask people, “Do you like this title?” or “Do you like this character and relate?” or “Is this interesting?” I would get in this tug-of-war between people who say they like it, and the ones who say they don’t. It’s not their cup of tea. Oh my goodness.
What happens next is that I end up in a standstill, unable to move forward in my project. I think, “Well, what can I do so that everyone will like it? How can I prove to these dislikers?” There has to be a way to please everyone because look at those famous authors that are loved by so many people! They made it. Why not me?
Sometimes I get blinded by trying to please everyone and don’t see the reality that even those famous authors have their own set of oppositional folk. And I, too, sometimes am in that dislike camp myself. Hypocrite, huh? 😛
When I first saw the book, “The City of Brass” by S. A. Chakraborty, I wasn’t interested in it because I didn’t like the title. Didn’t sound interesting to me. I shrugged and thought, “Okay, a city of brass. So what?” I did read the blurb much, much later and now I’m trying to get my hands on a paperback, but it took me a long time to come around 😛
Back to this issue here, and it is a continuous issue with me and maybe many others, of wanting validation on every part of our books. We ask about our books in chucks. Title? Character? This small, teeny tiny world building thing? We want to please everyone with everything while knowing it’s impossible. Then we get stuck in a rut and can’t get out.
Why do we do this to ourselves? Please. There’s enough problems in our lives! I think there are two parts to this. The first is how we as writers view our books and how readers or other writers view our books.
It’s a perspective difference that is not giving us the most helpful results here even when the verdict is negative.
Writers often tackle a book in separated chunks. The title, the cover, the character, plot, world building, map, and anything else. It’s merging all those elements together that make up the story. I have this theory that writers are asking for validation on each element individually from people who don’t normally consider these elements individually even if they themselves might be writers.
I notice when I judge other writers’ titles, I am coming from a “Would I be interested as a reader” perspective.
But once you give someone the chance to focus on one specific element, there are going to be answers you don’t want to hear. You are, or I am, opening a can of worms that really doesn’t need to be opened because it doesn’t help.
Here’s an example.
I like “The House with Chicken Legs” by Sophie Anderson. Overall, a beautiful book, so magical in it’s descriptions and with characters you want to follow and cheer on or even condemn for their actions. But if you ask me specifically about the main character Marinka, I would say, “I didn’t like her all the time.” So then you say, “Well, you have to like every aspect of the book. How can I make you love Marinka all the time?”
You see what I mean? You’re allowing people to really think about one specific element separately and really focus on if they like it or not when they may not have thought anything about it prior. And one specific element, I don’t think a good reason for dislike can be given. I could say I didn’t like Marinka because she’s stubborn, but the problem is, I also like Marinka because she’s stubborn.
So…that’s a problem 😛
I hope I’m making sense. Like “The City of Brass” or “The House with Chicken Legs”, you give someone one element and ask them to judge, even fans might have polarizing opinions. So, writers like you and me, we need to stop giving people the chance to focus on those single elements if we want a sound, overall verdict. And if negative, if we want a good reason.
Ask me, “What did you think about Marinka in the story?” and I can say “Well, she’s stubborn and I didn’t really like the way she dealt with things in the story. But it was also because she was stubborn that drove the story. So, I’m on the fence about her, but in the end, I did fall in love with her.”
And you can see, “What did you think…” doesn’t put opinions in people’s mouths. You didn’t ask me if I liked or disliked her. You asked me what I thought. I think that type of question is better to ask. More open-ended, I suppose.
“What do you think about this title?” “What do you think about this character?” Allow people to form their opinions and give a more rounded answer if they so please.
This will help me. It will help you. I already tried it and it does give people a chance to say what they want rather than focusing on like or dislike. It gives writers a more general verdict, too. More helpful in my opinion 🙂