A Letter to My Ideal Reader

Dear Reader,

Firstly I want to thank you for putting in the time to read my pieces so carefully – for reading them twice, maybe three times over. It’s nice to know that you dedicate a proportionate amount of time to reading my work to the time I spend writing it. No detail escapes you, and I know that sometimes a word or two, crucial to the themes of the story or a later development, can sometimes get lost along the way; so thank you for being attentive. I find often that I have to explain this or that to some who read my work, but not to you. I hate spoon-feeding my audience as much as you, dear Reader, hate being spoon-fed, and I feel that writers should reward attentive readers, and that good writing must be crafted with a degree of subtlety and suggestion. The difficulty is in finding the balance, in knowing what should be told and what should be implied, and in creating varying levels and layers of subtlety and suggestion. I am still learning – or perhaps growing in – these abilities, and I thank you for you patience and perception in the meantime.

You know that my characters almost never hold my beliefs, and that while I aim to make the worst of my characters’ actions and thoughts understandable, I don’t aim to condone them. This is because you think about my work, you engage with it: you know that I try to craft a multi-dimensional piece, and because of your aforementioned patience and perception you can identify this though perhaps I don’t write with the best clarity or order. You read to have thoughts provoked and emotions aroused; you’re interested in questions of culture, gender, religion, class and race, philosophy and politics, society and power, but you don’t want these things to take the foreground, or to have opinionated arguments thrown in your face – you want these issues to appear within the narrative, to be presented to you as part of the plot, left for you to decide your views. I really hope that I achieve this, that the socio-political aspects of my work are part of, and carried by, the stylistic aspects and the narrative.

Finally, I guess a mixture of the previous points, I know you understand most questions of morality to be ambiguous. You like to read pieces in which there are neither heroes nor villains, characters are beautifully (or not-so-beautifully) and humanly flawed and the characters are left open to moral debate. In terms of moral ambiguity, this is one of the points in which I find the balance between subtlety and clarity to be difficult to achieve, as in Little Red I had one reader who thought that Mr Wolfe was undoubtedly a paedophile! But again, with your patience and perception I’m sure you understood that this wasn’t necessarily so.

Again, thank you for your attentiveness. You are my ideal reader; I hope that with practice I can hone the techniques that we most value and in time become your ideal writer.

Yours faithfully,

Samuel H. Birnie

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One thought on “A Letter to My Ideal Reader

  1. Pingback: Audience & Context – Presentation Transcript | Samuel H. Birnie

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