Monday, March 04, 2019

The Reader Avatar

There is definitely something very spooky going on at Type M.  It is quite uncanny, the number of times I have had an idea for my blog only to find that the very same week someone else has thought of it too. Now it's even extending to our guests as well. 

Annie Hogsett's delightful description of her ' Partner Reader' chimed right in with my own thoughts this week.  Mine were provoked by a half-heard radio programme.

I was in the car and turned on the radio to hear someone talking about having a 'reader avatar'. Not only do I not have one; I had no idea there was such a thing.  (Is it a Thing?) This was someone who had been hugely successful with a series of books self-published on the internet and he attributed this success to knowing exactly who he was writing them for.  Her name is Darlene.  She lives in Los Angeles and has a husband in the entertainment business. Her kids have grown up and left the family home but she has a German Shepherd and enjoys quilting.

Darlene, if you're out there and are even at this moment pricking your ears up, just like the German Shepherd, since you didn't know about this guy who's writing all these books especially for you and you want to know who he is,  I'm afraid I have to disappoint you.  I only tuned in half-way through the programme and didn't hear his name.

But Darlene, I doubt if you'd enjoy them anyway.  It sounds a nasty, patronising, cynical way to go about writing and as a reader I can pick up insincerity from the first page and being manipulated  - like when the hooks at the end of the chapters are too obvious - irritates me as well.  You'd be much better off with Annie whose Partner Reader is a different thing altogether.  I love the sound of her - bright and kind and supportive . 

I've often said that the good thing about writing crime is that, unlike writing a novel which is a message to give the world, it's a sort of formal dance with the reader who is always at your shoulder - or perhaps in my case it's more like a battle of wits.

My reader is very bright and very demanding.  She -  or he - is determined to reach the solution to the crime before I tell her and I'm determined to stop her.  I'll play fair in that there should be a  way to work it out but I'll use every trick and red herring I can think of to set her off in the wrong direction.  I once rewrote a crucial scene six or seven times so that the clue I was honour bound to give her was obscured by another plausible, but totally false one.

Of course she's really on my side since she actually wants to be mystified.  We have a sort of mental high five at the end if I've succeeded.

But I don't have a particular idea of who that reader is. Male, female, British, American, Canadian, Australian - they're all out there and sometimes email to say hello.  There's even an Italian who is a regular correspondent when he comes across an English expression he doesn't understand. Wherever they are in the world, though, it's an extraordinary privilege to be able to have such a close relationship with all these thousands of people I will never actually meet.

No comments: