Readers trust. Writers must be trustworthy. Readers want to move into our created worlds whether a galaxy far, far away, a dragon-infested castle, New York City circa 1935, or present day LA, and live there for a while. When they pick up our books, read the blurbs, buy them, they’re saying, “I trust you to deliver.” We writers are often given only one chance to do so. If we don’t prove trustworthy, those readers aren’t going to trust us again.
I love the ballet. I love dance, in general, but ballet? Sigh…when I was much younger, my mother used to buy me season tickets for the ABT at Lincoln Center every year for my birthday. Golden days! Life changed. I couldn’t get all the way into the City so often, and the ballet season started passing me by.
Years later, she surprised me with tickets to one of my favorite ballet’s–La Bayadère, not just for me, but for my two daughters. Being in Lincoln Center again was so thrilling, and now to share it with my girls? Magical. But I was older by then, my life far different from the youngster who used to simply watch in abject awe. My writer-brain was fully fleged by then, and I made some interesting connections.
During the second act of La Bayadère, the male and female principals went into a lift that boggled my brain. The ballerina was very slight. His legs were like treetrunks. The ease with which he lifted her was astounding enough; the way she held her pose, body arched, arms reaching, unmoving while he turned round once, twice, three times. It was fluid, graceful, effortless, or so it seemed. Of course, it wasn’t. Trust, the giving and the taking of it, made it seem so.The female principal is all about trusting, while the male principal is all about being trustworthy. The absolute confidence she has in his ability to hold her aloft, and later, leaping at him and knowing he is going to catch her is a beautiful thing. Without that trust and trustworthiness, the beauty of the dance loses the abandon. It becomes steps painstakingly taken. It loses the magic. Sitting there in the dark theater, in thrall of the dancers, the thought returned every time she leapt, he caught; he lifted, she posed. On the ride home was when it truly hit me.
It’s a big responsibility being that trustworthy. And it’s hard to consciously keep our readers in mind when we write. They are our stories, after all. But if you’re writing with the hopes of anyone other than yourself reading your work, whether published or not, you’re entering into that contract of trust.Is this scene important to the book? Or do I just really like it? Does the reader need this information? Or is it simply cool stuff I’ve researched/invented that I want to use? Is using the word epicrisis* really necessary, or do I simply want to utilize my vast vocabulary?
We have to write what we love. We have to stay true to our voices, our styles, our tics. They make us the writers we are. We also have to do it in a way that’s going to appeal to someone outside of ourselves. Don’t slip in that random character cut from another story because you really like him and want to use him somewhere. Don’t drop adverbs into the story because they are easier. Don’t infodump those cool worldbuilding or historical facts you have filled countless notebooks with. And don’t use words your reader is going to have to stop and look up.
If a dancer drops his partner, she may leap again, but it’s not going to be with the same abandon. Likewise, if a reader picks up a book that is more about the author’s pleasures than the story itself, the trust is broken. It might take a while to lose a loyal fanbase, but once you lose a reader’s trust, it’s GONE.
*epicrisis~praising or disparaging by paraphrasing or citing somebody else. In case you were interested. And yes, I had to look it up.