A few years ago, I read a review in which the reviewer said that the most important criteria in reviewing a book is the answer to the question: Were my expectations met?
I get that. Sort of. Sometimes we sit down to laugh through a comedy and we are underwhelmed. But this reviewer went on to describe a book with a strong storyline, a story fitting for its genre with interesting and likable characters ~ all her words ~ and then gave the book only 1/2 a star because the text contained several curse words.
Instead of reviewing the book on its story merits, she was saying that her expectations were not met. In this case, I learned as she explained further, the book was released by a Christian, and therefore, the reviewer had not expected the story to contain any strong language at all.
But that’s not life. Unless you’re perfect. And anyone who says they’re perfect has not faced the truth. So … we’re back to the beginning, aren’t we? In this book’s case ~ and I read it ~ what if the writer was striving to mirror life, to give the reader something dangerously real, like the unexpected?
This post isn’t about cussing. I swear. It’s about the veils we hide behind, the ones that make us look “perfect,” but that hide our truths. And it’s also about the rigid standards that we often place on each other.
Sometimes as a writer I feel strangled by what is expected. Like you, I’m not a one-dimensional person, but a woman with many facets and just as many moods who has lived long enough to have experienced soaring heights and gut-wrenching lows ~ and to have faced them the best she could. And sometimes, admittedly, that wasn’t all that great (she says in a whisper).
I want to write the good, the hilarious, and the messy, but I want to do it honestly … in a way that’s relatable and inspirational (and infused with a healthy amount of sarcasm, naturally), even if that means missing the mark on a few readers’ expectations.
This is another reason many of us have dipped our toes into indie waters, isn’t it? (Remember the collective cringe when we recently learned that some publishers have begun to hire “sensitivity readers”? Yikes.) I’m not looking for a reason to write stories that titillate (strange word, that one), or something so sensational that it’s devoid of deeper meaning. But it’s exhausting to try to please everyone. And impossible.
Ultimately, I think, we as writers want to inspire, surprise, and yes (she says boldly), entertain our readers with the unexpected. Hopefully that means that, in the end, more will actually find that their expectations have been met after all.