Contract with the reader

One aspect of the strong fan reaction to Meyer’s Breaking Dawn is the notion that some of them have that Stephenie Meyer owed them a particular book and a particular ending.1 As a writer I have to say that does my head in. No writer owes their readership anything. NOT A SINGLE THING. They have to write the book they have to write. Writers should not be thinking about giving their audience what the audience wants. For starters there is no unified audience. They don’t want all the same things. So pleasing them is IMPOSSIBLE.

On the other hand, Joss Whedon owes me big time for the mess he made of season seven of Buffy. The creators of Veronica Mars owe me BIG TIME for the monstrosity that was season three of Veronica Mars. And do not get me started on the egregious ways in which Weeds has jumped the shark. Head should roll!

So, um, I appear to be in two minds on all of this. Writer Justine does not agree with fan Justine. But whatever the contract with the reader is it does not include having to fulfill all the reader’s desires. On account of that not being possible.

Hmm, I repeat myself. What do youse lot think?

  1. My apologies for the worst sentence ever I’m hoarding the good ones for the Liar book. []

49 comments

  1. Rachel on #

    The writer doesn’t owe the readers content, but they do owe them a book. And an ending.
    Writers who start trilogies should have a pretty clear intention of finishing them – hopefully before they start writing the next thing they wish us to buy, but certainly before producing the next couple of fat series.
    And if a story has an arc, and the writer is getting to a certain age, they should definately start to think about wrapping the thing up & getting an ending in somewhere (I don’t want everything tied up, but a bit of resolution is nice)

  2. MJ on #

    This conversation comes up quite a lot in my house – how readers/fans influence writers.You know the writers from Lost are influenced by what they hear on the fan boards, probably Heroes, too. An example of this is the character Helo on Battlestar Galactica. He was supposed to die but the fans wanted to know what happened to the guy left behind, who gave his seat up, and the writers came up with quite the mythology around him.

    As a writer, I can’t imagine meeting those kinds of expectations, but as a fan, I see your Veronica Mars and add Season 3 of Grey’s Anatomy and the second half of season 6 of Gilmore Girls.

  3. Laura Goodin on #

    My husband, a composer, and I, a writer, often debate this. He leans toward “the composer/writer must produce the work that they want to produce, and the listener’s/reader’s expectations do not enter into it.” I lean toward “The reader and I collaborate to make this work meaningful. If I jerk the reader around, that’s just power-tripping.”

    That having been said, I suppose I don’t OWE the reader a slavish adherence to the tropes of, say, the typical vampire story or humorous piece or whatever. But if I promise humor and halfway through switch to gross-out-slasher-horror, that’s not nice. It’s mean.

  4. Mary Elizabeth S. on #

    I agree. And really, I wouldn’t *want* my favorite authors (or any author for that matter) to write a book a certain way just because I wished they would. No one can write a story like the person who writes it, if that makes sense.

    So going with the Breaking Dawn example, only Meyer can write the end to this series. Not her fandom, not her editor, not another author. Just her. And that’s the whole point. Because if everyone just dictated how they wanted their favorite books to end, we’d miss out on an awful lot surprises endings. Talk about predictable.

    (Just for the record, I liked Breaking Dawn. I didn’t see what was coming, and I enjoyed the surprises. And I thought it did a good job of ending the story as a whole. I’m just sayin’.)

    ~Mary

  5. Mary Elizabeth S. on #

    It looks like I’m agreeing with Laura, but I mean to say “I agree with you, Justine.” But I do agree with Laura, too. There is some give-and take involved.

    ~Mary

  6. Patty on #

    Well… there is that contract with the reader thing. And without readers and a solid fan base a writer is nothing. So methinks an author had better not p*** off their readers too much. I think the challenge is to surprise and delight within the wide range of readers’ (and the genre’s) expectations. Of course you can never please everyone, but I don’t think you can afford to stomp over your fans either, because next thing you turn around and you won’t have any fans. Fame is fleeting and fickle.

  7. deborahb on #

    >If I jerk the reader around, that’s just power-tripping.<

    What Laura said.

    I’d *like* to think that if a writer is being true to the initial vision (where the promise to the reader is made), then the ending should wind up being true, too. And if it’s a true ending, then the writer’s done all she can, and all she needs to do.

    On the other hand, what the heck does true mean? And how do you know when you’ve hit it?

    Also, I expected a different ending to your blog post, and now I’m disappointed.

  8. El on #

    I liked Season 6 Buffy until the creators had a fit because we were supposed to think the Buffy/Spike relationship was awwwwwful. So they went and turned things nasty in a way that they hadn’t been.

    Jennifer Crusie has an article on her website, http://www.jennycrusie.com/essays/datingdeath.php (originally in a book of Buffy essays), that explains how the writers used metaphors that encouraged the idea that the relationship was a good thing. THAT kind of thing is no fair–using metaphors that imply one thing, then telling the reader/viewer that you were actually supposed to be thinking something else entirely.

    Haven’t yet read Stephenie Meyer.

  9. lotti on #

    I feel really sorry for all writers that have to finish huge projects, like the Twilight series. I remember reading Eclipse, and thinking ‘wow, Breaking Dawn is going to be one of the hardest books to write’, because Stephenie built things up so much.

    HOWEVER…

    The fan-me was expecting something something a little better. I know no audience is ever going to be completely satisfied, but we have been spoiled with Harry Potter 7, and expect the ends of series to be, well, bigger.

    Anyway, that’s just my opinion. I don’t completely hate Breaking Dawn, but I think it would have been better if SM thought about what her fans wanted just a little more. Also, imprinting on your former girlfriend’s kid is just plain weird and creepy.

  10. Herenya on #

    I might have a different opinion on this once I’ve actually read ‘Breaking Dawn’ (It is sold out and I have to wait until more copies come in. Fun…) but I think it is unlikely.

    I agree with the idea that authors should write endings they want their books to have (and not what their fans want the books to have) but have to admit there are TV series where I would be happy to see heads roll because of what they did with it.

    I don’t think I’m contradicting myself, because with TV, the reasons behind a certain ending is not just dependent on one person. It depends on whether the actors are available and whether or not there is money to do another series (or it is making money and they want to create a way to have another series). So the ending – and the rest of the content, for that matter – might not be because the stories creators and writers want it to end that way, but because of other factors.
    Therefore I feel justified in being mad about the ending of the second series of the BBC’s Robin Hood, because it doesn’t feel to me like an ending anyone would actually want. It was just a way to ensure they could make another series.

    Authors, on the other hand, write the endings which their books demand. (At least, I hope so.) Consequently, I mightn’t like the ending but I’m happy to defend their right to write it.

  11. Maggie on #

    “No writer owes their readership anything. NOT A SINGLE THING.”

    I’m not sure I can agree with this. As a writer, if I’ve set my series up to show clear choices and clear consequences to those choices, then I do feel I owe it to my readers to write the story within the parameters that I myself have set. If I give my hero a happy ending without first making him/her suffer the consequences of his/her choices, then (in my opinion) I’m cheating my readers. That’s just me, though. Other writers might feel differently.

    Of course, I haven’t read ‘Breaking Dawn’ yet, so I don’t if that’s a mistake Stephenie’s made or not. I’m just saying it’s not one that I would want to make and would feel guilty toward my readers if I did.

  12. emily. on #

    While you’re correct in Stephenie not owing us a certain ending, she did owe us the integrity of good author. Particularly, not going against 3 book’s worth of canon.

  13. JJ on #

    I don’t think a writer owes his/her readership anything in terms of content, but I think a writer owes his/her audience a CORRECT ending for the characters s/he’s created. I’m not being terribly articulate as I haven’t had my morning coffee yet, but the reason that I can see many readers being outraged with BREAKING DAWN is because there is a certain sense that they’ve been cheated of a journey or sacrifice or loss, hence no personal growth and change for the character. When things are too easy for a certain character, it doesn’t make for a compelling story.

    I completely understand fan outrage. I was outraged with the way certain things happened in the seventh Harry Potter book (and some of what I felt were character assassinations). But while I was furious, I understand that it’s not my book. J.K. Rowling was bound to anger some of her fans because some of us have grown up reading them for 10 years; we’re bound to feel some sort of proprietorship over the contents.

  14. Anidori-Isilee on #

    I agree with both writer Justine and fan Justine.

    Breaking Dawn was not part of the original deal. Stephenie Meyer asked to write this fourth book. Right there, red flags in my mind go up. When I finished Eclipse, I was a firm believer that the story could have been wrapped up in that book. After reading Breaking Dawn which reads like an overgrown epilogue designed to give the main characters a happy ending…I’m still of that mind.

    I’m an aspiring writer. I’ve talked to my friends about my latest writing project. We’re a bunch of giggly teenage girls; we love happily ending romances. They all want my main character to end up with the guy she’s in love with. I want her too. But it’s killing me to even consider writing a “and they lived happily ever after” ending. It’s not what the story needs. The story is screaming for a tragic ending, and as much as I’d hate to kill off the character or whatever, I don’t think I’d be satisfied with anything else.

    So tying that into the general discussion…I think that Stephenie Meyer wrote what she wanted, which in this case, was not what most of the fans wanted nor was it want the story wanted. If Stephenie wanted to write the book she wanted to write, that’s fine, but I’m not sure that it was when she had so many people eagerly awaiting this conclusion to Bella’s story. And I think conclusions totally change this idea since it is the end and you have to wrap the story up in a way that satisifies you and the story, and hopefully a lot of fans.

    I mean, it’s great that Breaking Dawn pretty much surprised everyone in the direction it went. But I’m not sure that’s a good thing because I’m not convinced that was the direction the story wanted to follow. It just seemed forced at places.

    I’d never want to say that an author owes her audience anything. But I think when you’re a bestselling author of Stephenie Meyer’s magnitude, the rules change slightly. I mean, people weren’t really reading this because it was “by Stephenie Meyer”; they were reading this because it was the last Twilight book. And I think that has some bearing on this discussion. I mean, if this weren’t Twilight, would people care as much? Probably not. But it is, and Stephenie Meyer took the book on a twisted path that just was maybe just too satisfying.

    Sorry about the length; I find this topic pretty interesting.

  15. beth on #

    The writer doesn’t “owe” the reader anything, but good writing will know the balance between fufilling the reader’s wishes and maintaining a good story. I think it was Kurt Vonnegut who said “Give them what they want” and gave the example of how you know a romance will end with boy getting the girl and how you shouldn’t fail the reader on that (Hear that, Philip PUllman? Sally Lockheart needed her man!)You don’t have to go online and read fan fic and fan boards to figure out the perfect ending to a book based on your fans, but you should figure out what kind of story your ans would like–a romance, mystery, etc., and give them at least a modicum of what they expect.

    This is where I think Stephanie Meyers failed: her readers had high expectations for one aspect of the story: the romance. But the story seemed to go in a different direction with the Jacob-baby thing, the preggers thing, etc.

  16. Patrick on #

    In my Vampire Love Story, Edward eats Bella and the entire school on page 5 of Twilight. He carries her corpse around for the next 500,000 words pretending she can still talk. I’m very upset at Stephanie Meyer for not writing that book.

  17. Patrick on #

    ” if this weren’t Twilight, would people care as much?”

    Yes, people would still care, just not nearly as many.

  18. veejane on #

    I don’t know nothing bout no sparkly vampires, but phrasing the very idea as “owe something to readers” is kinf of a misnomer, no? It’s a “contract” in the sense that the author creates a set of expectations, and then violates those expectations at her own risk.

    Sometimes, that risk pays off; there are whole subgenres of literature where not knowing or being thwarted on expectations is part of the point (see: slipstream/fantastic). Sometimes the risk just doesn’t pay off.

    …And as hilarious as the post-Breaking Dawn rage has been, I don’t think it’s the readers’ fault; they’re not, in the main, stupid readers or wishful readers or egomaniacal readers. (Although there are always a few.) They’re readers who work within socially- and authorially-constructed expectations, and naturally cry foul when something happens that violates those expectations.

    The crazier the unexpected item (or the more seemingly self-indulgent, or the more pointless), the bigger the cry.

    The real question, to my eye, is always: does the author understand that she is taking a risk? When the answer is yes, I am usually forgiving of a failure. When the answer is no, then I point and laugh on the internet.

  19. Corey J Feldman on #

    Please excuse if I am only rehashing what others have said, I have only skimmed to avoid spoilage. On the one hand it is the writer’s story to do with what they please, as an amateur writer, I totally get that. On the other hand the writer has (hopefully) reaped the rewards from their audience investing in their characters/story. So it is understandable that a disappointing ending could cause the audience to feel cheated. You are absolutely right; writers don’t owe readers a thing. That said, the readers owe nothing to the writers. If a writer gets me to invest my time, money and emotions into a series and I am not happy with the final product, I am not likely to do it again.

  20. Lydia on #

    I never thought that Meyer owed me anything…but I was hoping for something better. I have never been so utterly disappointed in the ending of a book. I could have cried over how bad I thought Breaking Dawn was. There were parts of it that I really liked, but overall… I was crushed.

    I understand that an author can do whatever they please to their characters and to their stories. And all in all I’ve always felt that Meyer read more like fan fiction than literature. But I was hoping for something more than I got.

    For a good laugh… you should read this – http://cleolinda.livejournal.com/630150.html

    Oh, and you didn’t like the last season of Buffy? It is one of my favorites.

  21. Amy on #

    I agree with both Justines :) I think the author owes the readers a good story. If you’re writing just for your own enjoyment, then you can write whatever you want. If you’re writing something for other people to read (or see, as in movies or other visual arts), then you’re entering into a relationship with them. In that case, yes you do owe them something. You owe them integrity in the story itself, and the characters, and living up to any promises made in the beginning.

    As much as I loved HP7, there were a few too many things Rowling pulled out of the sorting hat that contradicted things that had already been established, like not being able to create food using magic. Both Molly Weasley and Prof. McGonagle did exactly that in previous books, but in DH she needed a way to deprive Ron (the passions) so that he’d turn against the other two, so all of a sudden that ability pulled a vanishing act. No, I’m not bitter ;)

  22. Mer Haskell on #

    I think there’s a little bit of the case of pedestrian/bike/driver going on here. We all think we own the road when we’re on it, and the drivers hate the damn bike riders and the bike riders hate the damn pedestrians, and…

    Not that writers and readers hate each other. In theory. :)

    Ultimately, I don’t think the writer or the reader owe eachother anything. We’re all here to serve the story, in my little utopic world-view. The writer has to make good Story; the reader has to realize that what was done was done to serve Story. When either the writer or the reader forgets that, I think the other one gets to call the violator on their shit. I really do.

    I’m a big fan of the reader’s 50%. I think the reader brings as much to the table as the writer does. But they’re going to the same table, and that table is Story.

    *Beats metaphor into ground with croquet mallet, and leaves.*

  23. Ariel Zeitlin Cooke on #

    It’s always very annoying that the fate of one’s favorite show or character or fantasy world lies in the hands of its creator. But isn’t that element of surprise a big part of why it’s fun to read? Sort of the way you can’t tickle yourself.

  24. Stephanie on #

    Meyer does not have a contract with her readers, but she does have one with her publisher, and I have to wonder what the editor was thinking when she accepted the manuscript. “How can I get this printed faster?” seems to have won over “Hey, that’s awkward how the backstory got shoehorned in,” and “Wow, that character just did a 180,” and “Why are there no consequences to the choices that have been building up over the last three books?” Which are the questions I’d expect any editor to ask when confronted with such a train wreck of a book.

    Buffy season 7 gets points for the Anya episode, at least!

  25. Molly on #

    Veronica Mars season three wasn’t THAT bad! I mean, yes, I’d like to throttle “Piz” (a name so terrible it deserves quotation marks), and yes, it needed a better central plot, but … there were some moments in there. There were definitely some moments.

    High school shows just seem unable to make it to college. Sniffle. I do wish they’d managed to convince the powers that be to let them do the four-years-later, Veronica-at-the-FBI fourth season, though.

    I miss my shows. And you’re horrifying me with this shark-jumping talk about Weeds. I’m almost to the end of season three and I still love Nancy.

    /end TV-chatter hijack of interesting discussion thread. ;)

  26. kris on #

    I agree with Anidori-Isilee; it was an extremely long epilogue, not a book in the sense readers are used to.

    BD seemed to give everyone a happy ending; a few too many joyous people for well over 700 pages. (Okay, there were a select few affected by pain/death/etc.) It could be the conditioning of the Harry Potter series where anyone can die, no one is off limits, causing me to want more conflict, but I think it’s just the need for conflict with consequences.

    Authors may not owe readers a certain story, but they shouldn’t kill fans viewpoints of them by writing freakishly strange sap either.

    On a side note I didn’t HATE the book, I just feel it could have been MUCH better had the time been spent on it. I think she was killing herself trying to get the Host out as well as BD in one year. She never should have overextended.

  27. grace on #

    I do think writers owe readers. They owe readers a good book. I don’t care if you end the book the way I wanted you to, or if my favorite character dies, or if a giant fish suddenly falls out of the sky and kills the bad guy, as long as it is well done. (I mean I will care if you kill my favorite character, but I will care in a good way. with tears.)

    Basically, you owe me an ending as good as the beginning that drew me in.

    That’s it.

  28. JGS on #

    Here’s a phrase I never thought I would say:

    I agree with Corey Feldman :)

    I don’t think authors owe readers anything. Nothing at all. Art’s only responsibility is to itself.

    But.

    Readers don’t owe authors anything either. Piss on your readers and they’ll stop buying your books.

    I think it’s a dilemma artists of all stripes face: how do you balance what’s in your heart (avant-garde free-jazz skronk) and what your audience expects (upbeat summery pop tunes)?

    Of course, just phoning it in is another quick route to losing your fanbase (and it lacks even the meager cover of artistic integrity to keep you warm during those long, cold, fan-less nights).

    But regardless of why the artist has done it, I think their only responsibility is to their own vision. Even if I hate hate hate it.

  29. Leahr on #

    I just finished reading Breaking Dawn about an hour ago. I’m not sure what ending everyone else wanted. I thought it was fine. I don’t read Stephenie Meyer for plot, to tell the truth. I like her compelling writing style and characterizations. I liked how she managed the POVs of all the characters- the switch to Jacob went off perfectly. Her writing was not as polished as its been in the last 3 books, though- could have used more grace and less cliche, especially in the dialogue in the middle of the book.

    As for the reader-writer contract- the writer owes a reader nothing unless it pleases his/her ego. But. The writer must write books that people want to read. Or nothing will sell and then what kind of authorhood is that? Stephenie Meyer is not having that problem at this point. When you are that high on the bestseller list you are presumably doing enough right to not have to worry about fans with different taste than yours. Because they did still buy the book, apparently.She can write the book however she wants. And I thought she did a fairly good job of it.

    (This may be overly cynical. I can’t see a famous author not caring to the level that they want to write something many readers might hate, but as Justine has said before, authors are thin-skinned beasties.)

  30. Nicole on #

    well said justine.
    I loved reading Breaking Dawn, and really enjoyed the ending of the series. But… I have to be honest and say that several times while reading it, I thought,”this isn’t how things should happen!” Why do I think I have the right to say how someone else’s story should end? I DON’T, and I really need to remember that. I’m not usually so opinionated about someone’s writing, I finally realized why Breaking Dawn was different. I had expectations, I feel into the trap of making predictions and reading other people’s theories, as I’m sure so many who were disappointed did as well.
    As fun as it was to discuss what I thought would happen, there was definetly a price to pay when it came to my reading experience. Maybe some can theorize and not be disappointed when the author thinks nothing like you do, but I now know that theorizing is not for me. I think there would be a lot less negative reviews of Breaking Dawn if the fandom hadn’t been so adament about predicting every single plot point. Having expectations isn’t wrong, but too many can ruin part of the reading experience.
    Breaking Dawn was amazing, I really wish I hadn’t made so many predictions.

  31. Jennifer on #

    I don’t get why shows can’t transition to college. (I don’t watch One Tree Hill, but I do wonder how the “one, two, skip a few” tactic has worked for them.) I thought VM could if anyone could. But I think the network hamhandedness really tied Rob Thomas’s hands behind his back. The budget was so small they couldn’t show more than a few regulars in any episode at one time, cutting Veronica off from her friends, and I think that weakened it. I liked the long mysteries, and the network wanted them shortened/gone. As for Piz…oh, bitch, PLEASE, that boy was a puppy and Veronica is a pit bull, and nobody wanted to watch the inevitable biting of the puppy. I know you have to do the Inevitable Breakup/Makeup crap and you can’t leave V/L together, but…sheesh, find her a better guy to do that with.

    Okay, rant over.

  32. Tahsis on #

    Personally I loved Breaking Dawn. I think that the writer needs to write what she/he wants to write. Who are we as fans to say how it should end, from the beginning this is the author’s creation, shouldn’t they be the ones to end it how they think it should end? And also, if we hadn’t gone over every single thing we could possibly think up while theorizing about Breaking Dawn, we would probably be a lot happier. Then we would have no expectations and would be able to read the book with an open mind.

  33. pixelfish on #

    I think the author owes the reader nothing specific. I do think it behooves them to try and maintain a certain level of consistency with their characters. This is why For Better or For Worse has been pissing me off for the last few years though….Lynn Johnston went to all the trouble to establish her character, Liz, as an independent soul, craving a little adventure, and then after setting her up with guy (even using one of her trademark puns to set him up as Mr. “Right” Wright) she then reused a plot line to break them up and return Liz to her white-bread, picket fence suburbia. This cried out against all the character building she’d done previously, and a lot of fans were pissed and annoyed. Granted, it’s LJ’s story to write, but it was treading old ground and messing with established character traits.

    I’ve also seen writers get really focused on their IDEA, to the point where they shoe-horn the character in to fit the story. Or people who put all kinds of markers in, aiming at misleading the reader, but all it does is succeed in setting up expectations that will be dashed. They see it as a plot twist, the reader sees it as violations between the author and reader. (El at comment 8 makes this remark better than I am doing here….)

    One person who does surprising and subversive plot elements well is Lois Bujold. There’s a point in her novel, A Civil Campaign, where you wonder what a secondary character is doing off-screen. And based upon my culture, I made all kinds of assumptions. None of which were right. But when the reveal occured, I was really digging where it took the story. It was consistent with the characters (as we knew them) and THEIR culture. It was a surprise and yet played well with the rules of the Vorkosigan-verse.

    Recently, Elizabeth George killed off a major character in her Inspector Lynley mysteries. And got a lot of flak for it. I was personally unhappy with the decision…and I read her justification for it, and still didn’t like it, but didn’t feel betrayed because it was still playing by the rules she sets for her characters. Harsh things happen…has always been a rule in her series. People lose jobs, parents die, fertility issues prevent people from conceiving, racism affects neighbours, and sometimes people lose loved ones in senseless incidents. It was consistent with how she treated the characters.

    The writer can get away with a lot, as long as they aren’t betraying the reader by changing the rules. Other than that…anything is fair game.

  34. Kelly McCullough on #

    As both an author and reader I feel that there is an implicit contract between the two. When an experienced reader picks up a story they do so with a number of implicit expectations which form a contract of sorts between the reader and the writer (this is true of all genres but I’m an f&sf writer so I’ll focus there).

    The reader expects that the story will be about something. They expect that there will be clues and foreshadowing that will point toward the ending. They expect that the author won’t introduce things into the denouement that were not introduced or implied somewhere earlier in the story. They expect things to conform to the general rules and tropes of the genre or for deviations to be explained at some point.

    The reader needs to have some idea what to watch and watch for, or they will become increasingly unhappy over the course of the story, and downright irate if the rug is suddenly jerked out from under them somewhere along the line by huge unexplained deviation from expectation.

    Now, it’s possible to successfully violate every single expectation of the implicit, but it has to be done consciously and extremely well or the book is likely to make a ballistic arc and lose the author a reader, certainly for that story and possibly forever.

  35. Justine on #

    Wow. What a conversation to emerge from teh bunker and find. Youse lot are awesome! (Except Deb B. I owe you especially NOTHING!)

    I keep starting responses and then someone else has said what I was going to say further along. Bless!

  36. Serafina Zane on #

    Writers don’t owe the readers anything, but they owe the STORY something. Which is why endings that feel like they did a 180—whether to please the fans or not—just don’t work for me. Write the ending it’s supposed to have, and if you’ve written the book supposed to go with that ending, it should be at least sort of satisfying. I mean, some endings might make me angry and sad and distraught, but if it fits the tone of the book I usually don’t feel betrayed. I love lots of series that end with tradgedy or character death (*cough Bartimaeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud, Dark Reflections Trilogy by Kai Meyer, Gemma Doyle Trilogy by Libba Bray cough*), because I agree it was the right ending and because they were well-done.

    Sure, not everyone always sees eye-to-eye, so there’ll always be people who hate it, and everyone reads the book with something different in mind, but I think that an ending tacked-on to a very different feeling book—be it happy OR sad, just doesn’t work.
    Which is why a lot of the endings most protested are the ones of series or TV shows stretched out for longer than they were originally planned.

    Also, I kind of liked Season Seven of Buffy, which I actually only finished watching today. Well-plotted if single-minded, and quite the improvement on Season Six, in my opinion.

  37. Catherine on #

    I don’t know what everyone’s problem is. I thought breaking dawn was awesome. I loved it. My friends loved it. I’m very confuzzled.

    I’m of two minds on this too. I don’t want my favorite authors to write a book that is what I expect it to be. I want to be surprised. I think people came up with theories, got attached to them, and then were disappointed when they were wrong. So, they blame Stephanie Meyer. I think she wrote a great book that nearly had me calling in sick to work so I could stay home and read. I only went cause I remembered the four pairs of shoes that I just bought. (Curse my shoe addiction!)

    As for the seventh Harry Potter, I did have my theories, but I was disappointed when I got it right. Because if I got it right, it was what I expected and I wasn’t surprised. Although I’ll admit there was a smug “Ha! I figured it out” feeling when I did get something right, the surprises were much more fun.

    At the same time though, I totally agree that creators of Veronica Mars owe me for what they did to that show. I also think the creators of Gilmore Girls owe me a new ending to the show. Maybe writers of books owe their readers nothing, but creators of TV shows owe their viewers everything? Although that seems discriminatory. Ah well. It’s the best I can come up with thanks to the amount of tea I’ve had today.

    ~Catherine

  38. Bill on #

    Authors owe readers one thing. You owe us AWESOME. That’s how you became our favorite authors in the first place, not by being some literary short-order cook who serves us the burgers and fries we ordered.

    Readers should have NO influence over the details of said awesome. If they have such good ideas, let them write their own damn books. And if their books kick ass, then they’ll have fans of their own. Fair is fair.

    Does anybody really believe Stephanie Meyer got 3 books in and said “Now I’m going to ruin this for everybody!” She made it as awesome as she could and then gave it to the world, which is an act of supreme courage, whether it pleases everybody or not.

  39. Serafina Zane on #

    Also, I totally know what you mean in the footnote. I was practically incoherent when I was working on my novel climax. It was no doubt lots of fun for everyone around me. I kept asking what common things were called and speaking in a varied combination of runons that lost their original meaning and fragments that never meant anything in the first place.

  40. Brent on #

    I think an author has a contract to be themselves when they write. By that, I mean an author ought not put out junk that is beneath their ability simply to satisfy greed. Nor should they water down their scenes, characters, or stories to make their work more “marketable.” An author can explore new genres and styles (please do!) and shouldn’t feel beholden to whatever genre or style first got them notoriety.

    An author doesn’t have to move onto something new when they’ve totally said everything they can possibly say on the old subjects… but I personally would appreciate it. I’ll let you know if/when you approach that (we’ll check in a dozen books or so).

  41. Brent on #

    Separate thought, separate post.

    Art is communication. Writing even more so than most I believe. I’ve met “artistes” that slop paint on canvas and say it’s the viewer’s fault they don’t “get” it. I’ve read poetry that is similar. It fails to communicate. There’s no message, theme, or point.

    In a novel, there should be a story. I think that a writer owes the reader a story if they’re writing a story. If I want an action-adventure film, I don’t go to the History section. If I want a history book, I don’t look under Fiction. If I want a STORY, then I look for stories. If a writer gives me something else, I’m going to be upset with them.

    In a series, the hardest task is to give new content without devaluing or departing from the old material. An author doesn’t OWE the readers a better-than-the-last book each and every time, but they should try. A series ending should be at least as good as the beginning, and should BE an ending. But the author doesn’t OWE the readers that, it’s just good manners. :)

  42. deborahb on #

    Larbalestier!! *shakes fist* I’m sure you owe me SOMETHING!!

  43. Liz B on #

    Authors don’t owe fans anything in terms of plot or characters; but likewise, fans — and readers — don’t owe anything to authors.

    Authors do owe something to the story they are telling. For the final season(s) of BTVS, it was pretty evident that Joss’s attentions were elsewhere. As mentioned above, part of the problem with VM was Rob not being let alone to tell his story, but trying to meet network requests. The main times I’ve been angry at how a book turns out or is told, its usually because it gets too messagey or someone acts out of character or it feels rushed.

    And fans owe it to the author and creator to let the story be told — to realize that the resolution of the story isn’t going to fit what the fan wants or their individual needs.

  44. Dawn on #

    Justine! It’s been such a long time since I’ve read your blog/ commented on your blog in general. I feel so bad! Ever since I’ve gotten home from school I’ve just been out of the blogosphere.

    I agree with you completely. The writer does not owe the reader anything! In fact, I know that from my own experience, sometimes even I feel cheated by the story that is being written. Characters are who they are. Sometimes they do stupid things and you just want to scream at them, but the writer shouldn’t feel the need to change someone because they think that their audience might expect something else.

    My characters are almost-living, almost-breathing people. I can’t change them or their actions any more than I can change anyone else’s who I see on a daily basis.

  45. Hillary! on #

    As a fan I agree with you as a writer.

  46. Jody on #

    Seriously, it’s hard to imagine the pressure Meyer must have felt when so many were so passionate about the first three books. As a writer myself, I aspire to such rock star pressures, but it must also be maddening, like having an angry and adoring mob lined up outside your writing space. I think if a writer can filter that noise out, she’s more likely to avoid early death and/or insanity.

  47. Steph on #

    I’m curious about what you didn’t like about the seventh season of Buffy. Most Buffy fans don’t seem to like that one. I feel like I’m a total minority in liking it…

  48. CB James on #

    I think a writer who believes she owes nothing to her readers does so at her own peril. Who’s buying your books? Who’s paying the piper? The audience may not get to call the tune, but we will choose the musicians.

    I’ve always heard that Charles Dickens changed the ending to The Old Curiosity Shop becuase his audience demanded it. I’ll grant that it’s not one of his better books, but if paying attention to your audience was important to Charles Dickens….. The man knew what he was doing.

    This is a fascinating series of comments, by the way. You always get such interesting discussions going here. I’m jealous.

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