Recently on Facebook I posted the words of Louis Auchincloss: “To most readers the word ‘fiction’ is an utter fraud. They are entirely convinced that each character has an exact counterpart in real life and that any small discrepancy with that counterpart is a simple error on the author’s part. Consequently, they are totally at a loss if anything essential is altered. Make Abraham Lincoln a dentist; put the Gettysburg Address on his tongue, and nobody will recognize it.”
I totally agree with Louis Auchincloss, and so did Ahmed Maiwada- a Nigerian Writer and Author of a Fiction Novel titled ‘MUSDOKI’- who commented below my post saying: “@Iweka, Louis Auchincloss is surely not Nigerian. Therefore, I am shocked to see that this (readers’ attitude) is not just a Nigerian thing! Makes me feel better now on the reaction I got from some readers after reading my novel, that it is a ‘distortion of history’. It did not matter that I got hoarse shouting that I did not write history, but FICTION, people!”
I related immediately with his response as I also have been a victim of what I have now termed ‘Readers’ Mindset’. And I replied him saying: “@Ahmed, I have come to embrace comments from readers as they come, whether they be relevant, complimentary or just have an awful taste of ignorance. As writers, our duty is to write, essentially, as much as we are inspired to, then the readers are free to make their own derivations, judgements and conclusions.”
It is a rare ability, somewhere near the class of super powers, for a reader to view and appreciate the work aside the writer. The funny thing though is, those who wield such a gift are better readers and critics and even fans than those who are a lot less favoured.
As Writers we cannot enforce objectivity or maturity on our readers, but we can do our best to give them works that are free of biased opinions and inclinations, except of course where they are necessary or intended.
You have to also keep in mind that the battle of perception and opinion of your work cannot be won by you; the reader has the final say eventually. If whatever you intended to convey is not embraced by the reader just the way you intended, then you should be prepared to accept such eventuality.
Once you put your work out there it will benefit you to prepare yourself for the worst of comments, no matter how good you think your work is, or how much time you put into it. It will be unwise to engage a reader in an argument just because he/she didn’t quite notice the brilliance embedded in your work, or comprehend your message, or style or whatever about your work.
Understanding that your readers are a group of independent minded individuals with varying interests and orientation, will place you in a place where you can control how you react to their reactions of your efforts; and thus bestows upon you power and a chance to be fulfilled, regardless.