In the recent discussion we could call Procreation In Death, readers tossed out a lot of ideas about plot direction, story additions, plot devices. It’s gratifying to know books and characters I created resonate with readers and have them thinking of what ifs and what’s next.
Characters, like Eve and Roarke and the gang, or like Lila and Ash in my most recent book, The Collector, become a major part of my life. It’s incredibly satisfying when they become a part of a reader’s life.
Now here’s the thing. It’s sort of a big, sweeping thing. There are many, many readers with many, many opinions, feelings, hopes, ideas. As we can see, just as one example from the previous discussion, some readers are as opposed to a Baby Roarke as I am at this time. Others long for one.
So who do I listen to? I listen to the characters–and myself. If I listened to the readers I’d go slowly mad as it’s impossible to please all as one readers says this, another says that. Often with equal passion.
A writer can’t write, not well, not truly, with a reader standing over her shoulder. If only because there’s a second reader over her other shoulder saying the exact opposite. Who’s right? Who’s wrong? Neither, because books are subjective and personal, and readers are entitled to take exactly what they want out of a book.
But the writer’s the only one who puts the words, the characters, the feelings, the actions, reactions on the page for those readers to take away.
Here’s the even bigger, more sweeping thing.
I’m never–let me repeat–never, ever, ever going to take a reader’s idea and run with it. Not no way, not no how. If it doesn’t come from me, I’m not going to write it, I’m not going to be compelled to follow that path and see where it leads. It’s not mine.
Over the years I’ve had countless suggestions from readers on storylines, character types, and in the case of the In Death books, countless suggestions for direction and plotlines. Comas, kidnappings and babies seem to be the most popular. (Though puppies were off and running this time out.) You’re not going to see Eve or Roarke in an extended coma so Peabody and McNab can run the show. It’s not the Peabody and McNab show. If Roarke got himself kidnapped, he’d lose considerable of his edge. I can spend the next twenty minutes writing out other reasons why these devices won’t work, but above all you’re never going to see these devices because they’re not mine. It’s not how I see the books or characters.
And over the years I sincerely can’t count the times someone has come up to me, or written me hoping I’ll take this wonderful idea for a book, write it, then split the royalties with them. Or maybe I could just edit this book they’re writing and they’ll cut me in on what’s bound to be a major best seller. Or–a personal fave–they want me to write their life story because it’s so fricking fascinating.
To all of these I say, PLEASE, write your own book. I think it’s pretty clear I can come up with my own ideas, so thanks but no thanks for the offer of yours and half the royalties.
And to those who pine for me to write their autobiography, I say here, as kindly as possible, everyone’s life is, or should be, fascinating to them. It’s probably not going to be fascinating to most everybody else. And it’s not my story. I’m never–repeat–never, ever going to write it.
Ideas, honestly, are the easy part of this job. It’s the execution of the idea that frustrates, fascinates and drains the blood from your body. Ideas? I’ve got a million of them. Some of them will never make it to the page because they’re not especially good ideas. Nearly all of them seem like the wrong idea at various points during the writing process when it feels like nothing’s going the way you’d hoped it would or thought it would. But that’s the process.
So don’t look for comas and kidnappings In Death, don’t look for your life story on the New York Times Bestseller list with my name after it, don’t look for your phantom vampire and the international assassin who loves him or your struggling single mother finding love and adventure with the incognito prince as they thwart a terrorist attack on Cleveland.
Hmmm….maybe make her a blogger, and he’s undercover CIA, and….No.
So the big (and simple) and sweeping thing is this: If I didn’t think of it, I’m not going to write it.
I hope you’ll continue to enjoy what I do think of, and where I take you.