"No two persons ever read the same book."
I found this quote hanging making its way through my Twitter feed the other day.
I probably wouldn't have understood it had I not just had a conversation with someone who'd just finished reading THE LONG ROAD TO HEAVEN and offered her opinion.
The reader said after reading the epilogue, she shed a few tears and spent some time reflecting on the relationships in her own life.
"It was an amazing book," she told me. "But I wanted to know more about [a specific character]."
I always freak out a little when I know there's a "but" coming. It always makes me wonder if I didn't do an adequate job with research or fleshing out characters or [name any aspect of storytelling here].
I took her feedback into serious consideration, but I didn't let it make me insecure. The details she wanted would've been nearly impossible to offer from the first-person perspective I used in the story.
But I found her thoughts fascinating because earlier beta readers of the story offered me conflicting feedback. They wanted less of the character in question because they found him to be almost overwhelming at times.
After comparing what I know about these readers who offered me feedback, I discovered their personal experiences probably had a heavy influence on their opinion of that character.
I think writers need to keep these types of things in mind when developing characters and when listening to feedback on what they've written.
The art of storytelling comes with a lot of subjectivity. Not everyone is going to love what you've written or how you've written it. The reader's personal experiences are going to play a large part in how they accept certain characters.
That's okay as long as our characters are consistent in their development.
Thanks for reading.
* * *
Kathryn Harris is a journalist, a weekend blogger, a wife, a mother of two and the author of "The Long Road to Heaven," a novel about finding faith and forgiveness in the aftermath of addiction.