Dec 9, 2010

Reality and Perception

by Susan G. Haws

Every day I try once again to convince my mother that her home is the house where she lives. Some days she is willing to step into my reality and I catch a glimpse of the person I used to know. Other days my persuasion isn’t compelling enough to take that mental leap of faith. This made me think about how a writer’s job is to create a world and make it and the characters so compelling that readers choose to step into it for a while.

Reality and the perception of that reality: We have all heard the story of how when War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells was performed on the radio thousands of people believed that it was actually taking place as reported. Today’s movies and TV are much more sophisticated then a scratchy radio report of attacking aliens. The cues for news, reality entertainment, and fiction more subtle. The expectations of today’s audience are at a significantly higher standard than ten or twenty years ago. How can writers meet, and exceed readers' expectations?

Novels require an effort of imagination on the part of the reader. A give and take between author and reader; so, that the reader starts with words on a page and then pictures bloom in her head , and when she is pulled out of that world by the phone ringing she is surprised to see she is on page 46 since she doesn’t remember turning more than the first. TV and Movies require a lot less from their audience and present their world immediately and fully formed. But in TV and Movies the cast is already set; thus, the audience is an unseen observer on the adventure, riding the motorcycle with Indiana Jones. In a book the reader plays dress up if they want. They can feel like an observer or they can feel like the main character. So a 12 year old girl or a 30 year old man can both feel like an 11 year old boy riding a broom for the first time. Is this greater input by the reader enough? I love reading and I want to share that with others. But I wonder how to exceed astronomical expectation.

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