Monday, July 7, 2014

You Don't Own Me!

As a writer and craft-maker, I am very protective of my creative endeavors. I don’t always mean to be this way – it just happens. Ask my friends, and they’ll tell you that when people mess/tinker with things I’ve made, I have a mini-Hulk moment before I remember to calm the heck down. I do it with everything from floral design to little stuffed animals made of felt, but I especially do it with things I've written. 

John Greene (of The Fault in Our Stars fame) disagrees with me. He thinks that once a book is out there, it belongs to the readers. If you read TFioS, you met the author Peter Van Houten, whose jerk tendencies are an extreme representation of Greene’s actual beliefs.

I only recently learned of how Greene thinks about this whole post-publishing it-belongs-to-the-readers-I-have-nothing-to-do-with-the-story-now stuff. A teacher friend and I talked about it for a while and came to the conclusion that while we both understand the sentiment, I think it’s dumb.

Yup. I said it. Dumb. I’m sorry, Mr. Greene. I love your work; I really do. You made me cry like a baby. But I like to think that as an author, I know the most about the people living in my head. And for a subjective, in-my-humble-opinion reason, I think it’s kind of a cop-out to declare to readers that you can’t tell them what happens after books end because “they belong to the readers now”.

Jasper Fforde, one of my favorite writers of all time, approaches it a little more like I do: proprietarily. He says it just the way I think about it: I feel, and I think with good reason, very proprietorial about Thursday and all her escapades”. This was in answer to a question about fan fiction based on his Thursday Next series, and you can read the entire answer if you click on the link.

There are some authors who completely disagree with me, I know. While I would agree with Mr. Greene that books belong to readers, I also dare to say that characters belong to the author. That’s my theory. I imbue the books I love with my own imagination, which renders them in vivid color and texture according to my own experiences. But when it comes to the inside workings of a character’s brain (as real or imaginary you may believe it to be), I really think the author is the only person who can say what happens next.

What do you think – do authors own the moments outside of the book, or do the readers? 

There are only four authors Michelle will purchase a book from without having read it: Jasper Fforde, Terry Pratchett, L.A. Meyer, and Robin McKinley. She doesn't have an iPad or Kindle or Nook or any of those other fancy-shmancy book-reading tools, and her smartphone rides the short bus.

1 comment:

  1. Excellently explained! Obviously I know we don't agree like 1000% on this, but I like the balance you struck of story (or book) vs character. And the fact that so many authors (not to mention theorists and other hoity-toities) are on so many different sides of this question proves there isn't really a simple solution. On top of Green and Fforde look at people like Tolkien and JK Rowling! Sure seems like they wanted to retain "control" of their characters! Rowling just published more new stuff TODAY over on! (ok, but I'm kinda scared to go read it because of the whole "Oh, yeah, now I think Harry and Hermione should have gotten together" thing! AH!) Alright, so my bias is totally towards "reader-response theory" which is just a fancy way of saying I prefer the world that live in my head to the world that lives just in the book, or even in the authors head, but literature makes room for us all! And I love the dynamic discussions around this topic! Thanks for bringing it up!