We’ve all done it. Read a book so amazing our lives are irrevocably changed thereafter. Because we want to impress this amazing discovery on others, we tell family and friends, “You HAVE to read this book.”
I spoke with a man who said, “Name of the Wind” by Patrick Rothfuss was the most amazing book he’s ever read. So amazing, he said, that he bought 2 copies of the book to give to a family member and friend so they could read it. Wanting this book to amaze me too, I read it.
I didn’t like it.
The main character destroyed every nice thing that happened to him. Chapters would revolve around a single event – with a lot of detail put into it – but once the event was over, the story moved on without ever bringing up that event ever again. This event never changed characters. Never indented the plot. Those chapters could have been deleted and the book would have read the exact same.
So why did this book change the life of this man, but I donated my copy to my local library?
It comes down to our own life experiences. I will never read LGBT because my family taught me this is wrong, but someone else might love LGBT because they might be transgender. I will never read books where jailers fall in love with inmates because I’m a Deputy Sheriff and I work in a jail. That goes against my moral code as a jailer. So I will never read, write, or support that kind of book.
But it’s less obvious than that. Depending on if you grew up poor, rich, traveled the world, never left your hometown, talked to people or holed yourself up in a cave, things will have a different impression upon you. “Where one man tears the word out of his gut, another will pull it out of his coat pocket.” – Wish I could give attribution to this quote but I cannot find who said it.
A beta reader of mine read The Last Wizard. When he was done, he gave me sparkling feedback on it. “…and I LOVED XYZ,” he said. “It was absolutely amazing.”
I smiled politely and thank him. After he left, I thought to myself, “XYZ wasn’t in the book.”
Hmm. Weird. How can my beta reader read something in my book that I never wrote? It’s because his life experiences make him feel words differently. While I’m fine with the word “moist” I knew people who think of sexual connotations associated with that word. I might read the sentence, “the moist cake melted in my mouth” and crave cake. Another person might read the sentence, “the moist cake melted in my mouth,” and get grossed out because their life experiences have taught them that that word has sexual connotations.
You can’t make people feel anything. People will feel what they feel. So while my adrenaline is pumping as I write out a scene, a reader might tell me, “eh. It was alright.”
Just because you feel something does not mean someone will like it the same. They might like it more, or less. That’s not up to you. All you can do is write the story that’s in your heart and let your readers dictate how those words make them feel.