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Wise reader comment - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
fernwithy
fernwithy
Wise reader comment
I talked about Wise Readers as opposed to betas a couple of days ago, and right around the same time, while discussing things over at SQ, Grace has Victory gave me a really neat example of a Wise Reader comment. I didn't realize it right away, because it's the sort of thing that takes a day or so to settle in, but what she said about Shifts was:

It's really a story about adapting to change and changes in relationships.

Okay, I can hear my long-term readers saying, "Um... this was news to you? You wrote this for months!"

But that's the thing. I wrote it for months, one word at a time, one scene at a time, figuring out the timeline, speculating on motivations, and all of that. I knew that changes were part of it--the title referenced the various kinds of shapeshifting that the three main characters do, and of course there was the major sea change in Remus and Tonks's relationship. But when Grace mentioned it so specifically and succinctly, I realized for the first time that that's exactly what I'd written. R/T, yeah, that was a big one. But Sirius and Remus start the story with Remus babysitting and Sirius resenting it, but by the end of the story, they are very much on equal footing--two guys who love the hell out of each other, and Sirius offers Remus a permanent home for a future family at Grimmauld Place; they are now very much family because they want to be, not because circumstances have forced it. Remus starts out looking at Smeltings as a "fake" school environment and ends up loving it a lot and not wanting to leave. He's fine with lying to the Muggles when he starts, but by the end, they've become people to him and he wants to be truthful. Andromeda and Dora have to come to terms with one another as equals. Remus is moving into a more familial relationship with Harry. Sirius, though he's not entirely successful at it, is able to deal with his family as family--even if it is by teaming up with Dora and Andromeda to go after Bella and Narcissa. Dudley deals with his relationship with magic, at least to some extent. It's... everywhere in the story.

And I didn't see the arc until Grace pointed it out.

So what does the Wise Reader comment do for me as a writer?

Honestly, I'm not sure, though it puts a little bit of perspective on what I wrote. It also taught me something about the ending. I liked it, but I hadn't thought about why I liked it, why it seemed right while I was writing it. Lots of other stuff had happened, but I wanted to go back to the park where it started, and have Remus choose to go in rather than allow himself to be dragged. I think that was the culmination of a lot of the relationship changes, and the way those relationships changed Remus. Will it make a difference in editing? Probably not, at this point, but really, it gives me a sense of closure that I haven't had on that story, a sense that I can see it.

And it was all a simple--but accurate--observation from a reader who told me what she read.

Anyway, just wanted to share that.
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Comments
mistralcat From: mistralcat Date: May 4th, 2005 09:27 pm (UTC) (Link)
That's the best way for stories to have themes - the author doesn't consciously think about a theme and set out to write one into the story; instead, it comes out slowly, just from the author's thinking and writing about the characters. If you'd realized midway through, you might have been trying to shoehorn in ideas related to the theme, and that would have led to flat, out-of-character writing (well, maybe it wouldn't have because you're you, but it often does).

The best themes are the ones the writer didn't intend.
the_jackalope From: the_jackalope Date: May 5th, 2005 01:13 am (UTC) (Link)
You have just pinpointed why I've been having trouble with a particular book, and I couldn't figure it out on my own. IT was really bothering my, so thanks.
mistralcat From: mistralcat Date: May 5th, 2005 02:23 am (UTC) (Link)
You're welcome! It's not an original thought (though, of course, I can't remember who said it first), but I'm glad I could pass it along.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 5th, 2005 02:13 am (UTC) (Link)
That's true, but it can help in the re-write, polishing things and making them shine.
mistralcat From: mistralcat Date: May 5th, 2005 02:24 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh, yeah, it's good to know now, but it's also good that you didn't know it then, if that makes sense.
persephone_kore From: persephone_kore Date: May 4th, 2005 09:32 pm (UTC) (Link)
That's neat.

I remember reading something where Lois McMaster Bujold said that she generally discovered the theme of her stories some time after she finished writing them -- maybe years after. It sounds sort of as if Grace's comment provided you with an accelerated version of that.
author_by_night From: author_by_night Date: May 4th, 2005 10:31 pm (UTC) (Link)
Grace is very, very right! However, I think the fact that there was no theme intended *made* it so good. The story wrote itself..
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