No spoilers, I promise!
I tweeted this morning that it was interesting hearing about what parts of Uncovered people are latching onto, and got this reply:
I would think you as the author would know the most significant parts of the story
Which made me think about something I know I’ve said a lot but haven’t really maybe condensed into a post. And since I’m taking a quick sanity break from ComicCon, I’ve got time to do that.
The comment above is partly right. I know the most significant parts of the story…to me. But even though I wrote all the words in “Uncovered,” and all my other books, your experience of reading them is roughly 50% yours. You bring your own preconceptions and likes and dislikes, your own history of boyfriends and girlfriends and best friends and ex-friends. Maybe Lee reminds you of your first boyfriend you never really got over, or Dev reminds you of your asshole ex. Maybe Dev or Lee is the person you’re aspiring to be, or trying hard to escape being. Whatever your experience is will shape the story in ways I can only imagine.
Tangentially, I think that when we complain about stories being “manipulative,” that is a shorthand for forcing you to feel a certain way regardless of your own history and experience. Most often that is a story setting you up to fall in love with someone by making them wonderful and perfect and then killing them. And I think that happens most often when a story forgets that its characters are people.
People have flaws. People do amazing things and stupid things and they do them for (mostly) reasons they believe are compelling. A character set up to be wonderful and perfect so that the story can make you cry by killing them later is not a real person; they’re a construct of the story. Honestly, all stories are “manipulative” in that they drag you into fictional worlds and make you care about the characters in them (the good ones do, anyway). When stories are manipulative in a bad way, I think that’s because they are pushing aside your own experience.
Which is why I’m kind of glad to hear, “I want to punch Lee in the face” alongside, “Dev is such an idiot.” Yes. Yes. They are both trying their hardest to navigate a terribly difficult situation, and they make mistakes. That some people blame one and some blame the other tells me that you are reading them as people, that your experiences are resonating with the book in one way or another, and that’s a good thing.
The book was written by me, but the story you experienced is co-authored by you, and that is the way I want my stories to be. (I’ll stop short of saying “all stories should be,” because there are extraordinarily successful lines of manipulative formula books and clearly people love those as well.) So please keep telling me which parts of “Uncovered” made you mad, made you cry, made you laugh(*). You’re telling me our story, which will be new to me.
* (For the record, like the entire last section of the book makes me all emotional for different reasons which I will not list here because SPOILERS but in many ways, this book is the climax, ha ha, at the end of the story arc, and book 5 will be sort of an extended denouement, which presents some interesting structural challenges that may be the topic of a future post.)