The Lutheran church where I’m organist uses an electronic instrument in a choir loft above the sanctuary. The organ’s three huge speaker banks are hung off the loft rail so they project out over the congregation. Which is fine, except that when the congregation is going all out (Lutherans tend to be full-throated singers), I can’t hear myself play. Essentially, I’m playing on trust.
I thought about this as I read the comments on some of the Editor’s Clinic pieces. So many readers would like to change the focus of the narrative — to cut a bit of character-building interior monologue in order to speed up the action, or to pause the action to explore a relationship that may or may not be important later. This raises the question: how do you know how your writing comes across to your readership? How do you tell when you’re feeding them so much information you’re boring them, or so little that you’re leaving them confused? Do your readers see your characters as the same people you do? Have your surprises come as a surprise, or were your readers just waiting for you to spring your reveal and move on? How do you know?
Well, you can’t, not really. Remember, your readership isn’t a monolithic block who will all feel the same way about your story. If you, say, leave out some of the more obvious steps in your detective’s thinking, some readers will appreciate the way you assume they can follow along, while others will simply be lost and resentful. If you spend time developing a personal relationship that helps showcase your main character, some readers are going to appreciate knowing your protagonist better while others are going to be impatient for the story to keep moving. [Read more…]