Peggy Bechko: The Symbiotic Relationship Between Writers & Readers

Hmm, dude here looks like Gene Roddenberry. Could it be...?
Hmm, dude here looks like Gene Roddenberry. Could it be…?

by Peggy Bechko

Writers and readers have a symbiotic relationship. Each needs the other.

So why, really, do people read? Personally I think most people read to escape, to experience things they might not (or plainly could not) experience in everyday life.  They can explore new worlds if science fiction or fantasy, they can feel the adrenaline rush of a car chase, or a race from an exploding volcano or maybe experience a jungle trek astride an elephant in India without actually going there.  Fiction offers the opportunity to live another life while remaining safe on the couch.

And that’s just for starters. Readers can also experience the wide range of human emotion and deeply moving experience from the safety of a comfortable chair. Or they can relive an event in their lives via the book in their hands. They can do all this while skipping the boring parts, and they have they opportunity to learn from all this without actually suffering through those experiences first hand.

Think about the emotions you, as a reader, may have experienced. For example, amusement, anger, anxiety, awe, confusion, contentment, curiosity, disgust, grief, adrenalin rush – shall I go on? I could. On and on and on. Those few I mentioned are merely a taste of what a reader can absorb through your written words. Expand your mind and consider the many more emotions such as jealousy, joy, frustration – and bring them to life in your writing. They lend a nuanced richness to any story and hold your reader’s eyes to your page while their palms may sweat or their heart race a bit faster.

Think about how you can entice your reader. Curiosity is in us all. If you use that to your advantage you have a grip on your reader. If he or she is curious about what’s going to happen next then you have them hooked to the next scene, the next paragraph and perhaps even to your next book or script.

And what does the reader give the writer in return? Praise, respect, payment for the writer’s labors, perhaps fame and fulfillment. As a writer, you, too, are a reader, probably a voracious one. Pause and think about a book you’ve read recently, or pick it up again and skim it. What does it stir in you? Emotions? Memories? Desires? Whatever it is, presuming it’s a book you enjoyed, it no doubt delivered an experience you enjoyed.

So, doesn’t that tell you that you, as a writer need to set goals for what you want to stir in your reader? If you want your readers to cry you have to build up to it, prepare them, make the story choices necessary to bring them to that point. There are, of course, the unintended reactions you might stir. Like causing laughter when you’re aiming at solemn. And that might just be okay. The aim is to take the reader along for the ride, to surprise him, present him with a perspective he might not have entertained before. Veering off your intended course could bring more depth, more richness. It will be up to you to decide if that’s the case.

It’s truly a dance between writer and reader. So much to share. What was the latest book you read and how did it move you?