It’s pretty exciting to hear myself say, “I’m an author!” while I hand someone my business card. Can it actually be true? Who gave me such an illustrious title, anyway? Maybe it happened once I printed the cards; in any event it crept up on me. But I like it, it’s new, and it’s fun. I think.
I began writing for pure recreation, and to fill my retirement. It should still be fun!
Now, however, the question has been raised about a writer’s responsibilities, and that has sent my brain into a sort of frenzied overdrive. And dimly, as if emerging through the mist on the edge of a forest, some sobering facts are coming into focus. I do take my writing seriously, and I do take responsibility for what I write! I admit that came as a revelation of sorts, and to describe those duties and obligations throws me another challenge, but it’s one that I wish to embark upon, even if only for my own satisfaction.
One lesson coming home to me more clearly every day is the importance of developing and nurturing a strong support system of other writers, to learn from their vast pool of experience and knowledge. I’ve found a real gold mine in RAVE REVIEWS BOOK CLUB. This group, often seen in social media as #RRBC, has the largest membership, most impressive management and varied activities of any similar groups or organizations I’ve come across to date. This is the website where you can sign up: Click Here
As for the responsibilities of authors, the FIRST thought that springs to mind is that a writer must capture the reader’s interest from the first sentence, or at least the first page. SECONDLY, the plot needs to develop with enough speed to stay fascinating, but not so quickly as to lose a poor hapless reader’s grasp of what is happening.
THIRD item, and none of this is necessarily in order of importance, every book has to be believable. That applies even to the wildest fantasy; your readers must be able to feel the possibility of the tale actually happening, somewhere, sometime.
Number FOUR any story with a semblance of normal human existence, whether it be romance or thriller, is better if supported by real facts, even in passing. If you are in London get some fog in there, Big Ben bonging the hour, or taxis.
Also, so FIFTH condition if you’re still counting, would be characters who seem alive, feel real, and have sensible conversations that sound spontaneous and natural. And since reading is a form of entertainment, the added ingredients to present a full picture can include humour, satire, sarcasm, irony and a whole palette of analogies, descriptions, colour and pathos of every kind. Thus we have reached the SIXTH item for our list of responsibilities: paint the picture, tell the story, and never, never let it be a recitation of events that are as dull as dishwater.
SEVEN: If one is writing non-fiction, there is a monumental burden of responsibility. Hours beyond hours of intense digging for truth, facts, or opinions, and then listing a comprehensive bibliography all become necessary if a reader is going to take it seriously. In many cases, writers of non-fiction are very highly educated in the special field they may be writing about, another form of responsibility accepted and acted upon. Non-fiction will never by my forte. I’m far too lazy!
How responsible do I, as a writer of children’s books, have to be? I can’t profess to making a conscious or conscientious choice, but I feel I’ve balanced some nature facts with the whimsy of a child’s imagination (EIGHT). The Wise Old Owl being a mentor and friend to Shelby is one digression. Out there in nature that Owl would simply eat Shelby up for a tidy snack between meals. To defend this far-fetched relationship I argue poetic license (NINE). Where would the fun be without some ideas that defy Mother Nature? Also by portraying such a kindly-uncle figure I hope to reinforce in children the value of seeking and following the good advice and loving support offered by friends, family and teachers (TEN).
I do feel it’s important to include at least one unfriendly confrontation (ELEVEN), so I created a mean crow who bullies Shelby and nearly knocks him off a pole, at a crucial time during a rush for safety while crossing a road. Life isn’t all peaches and cream as Shelby may have hoped.
Another point of responsibility is to have the story take off and arch toward a finale (TWELVE). This happens in each story in my first book, ‘The Complete Adventures of SHELBY F. SQUIRREL and Friends’, a series of separate tales. But at the same time, during the 24 stories there is a larger arch that pulls us along, following Shelby as he stumbles and trips his way through 2 years of learning experiences that leave him considerably more grown up than in Chapter One, ‘SHELBY’S FLYING LESSON’. In my second book, ‘The Great FOREST CAPER’, the arch builds all the way through to a finale in the last chapter.
I would be hugely remiss to omit mention of correct spelling, proper grammar, and precise punctuation. Dreary as it may seem, that’s what makes a good book readable. Oops, THIRTEEN.
Oh, and by the way, this long (and I hope not-too-boring) list is really based on my experiences as a reader. The duties and/or responsibilities required for any job are seldom observed or analyzed by the worker, but are always clear as crystal to the boss and the customers. Maybe we should call this one FOURTEEN for good luck!
Eleanor Lawrie, Sept 27, 2016
This post is contributed by Author Eleanor Lawrie (@eleanorlawrie1)