I was just thinking about what a reader said to me about one of my books–that it bothered her it was not explained why one character did something to another. I assumed this would be obvious by the context and the characters and also knowing that people just do things for their own reasons and you can usually guess what that is if you’re absorbing the nuances of the story. But no. Some readers seem to want an explanation for everything, even when an explanation can be interpreted or assumed.
Perhaps this is because in reading fiction, we want to be taken away from our lives for a moment and into another world, but we also want that world to make sense because so often, our own does not. This same reader also complained “skilled people, especially those 4 should not have been portrayed as that stupid and helpless.” I was a bit floored by this, as it indicated to me that she thought those characters should not have any flaws, and should always know the right thing to do and magically avoid anything that might not leave them in control of a situation. I told her:
“yes, they are skilled, but they are also human, and I don’t believe in making characters into obligatory heroes, as a matter of course. They are human, they make bad decisions, misunderstand, do their best while flying by the seat of their pants. I don’t think that makes them stupid–they were dealing with a very confusing situation that didn’t make sense and had to work it out eventually. I can tell you from personal experience that you can be skilled and intelligent, and STILL screw things up and find yourself helpless. So this was my way of allowing my characters all their humanity, and still showing the strength of the human will and spirit. Hope that helps.”
Mind you, this reader gave me glowing reviews otherwise, on both books in the AKA Investigation series. But another bother for her was: “the confrontation with the enemy. the chasing, captures and recaptures and mountains, etc… was frustrating. ” And I answered:
“This is a dramatic device, also known as psychological suspense, a way to build tension and to keep placing obstacles in front of the characters and let them figure out how to get out of it. I guess not everyone wants that much tension. lol. But I enjoy piling on the challenges so I can test the characters, and make their ultimate triumph all the more sweet. But tension can be frustrating….that’s the nature of it. In a story though, I find it more satisfying if I wonder all the time how the hell a character is going to get out of a seemingly insurmountable dilemma.”
So we strive for truth in our fiction, ironic as that is, and still, we will come across those who really don’t want some truths, and some they want more of than we can offer, or they want outright lies. But as you’ve pointed out, Kate, we will never be able to please everyone with our writing. Even though it really bothers me that i can’t. :^)