Beta Readers, Feedback and “Real” Fiction

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A little over a year ago I came up with an idea for a mystery series which I’ve been working on ever since. Originally, I had planned to write book one, publish it and then follow that up with the next two books in the series. But as I found myself waiting for feedback from beta readers, I decided it made more sense to just write all three books and publish either at once or in close succession. So as I waited for feedback on book one, I started book two and as I waited for feedback on book two I started book three. Now it’s just a whacky kind of feedback, edit, rewrite merry-go-round. But I am approaching the end and hopefully that will happen before I lose my mind.

Beta readers are un-freaking believably awesome

While I’ve worked with critique groups and swapped critiques with other writers, I never used beta readers until writing this series. I have to say they are worth their weight in gold, especially since mine are all vastly different people. Consequently it’s given me a wide range of feedback. Which is beyond awesome and I can’t believe there are people in the world who are willing to give their time and energy to reading and rereading in order to help me. Bless them. However, something interesting came up in recent feedback that I got from one of my beta readers made me start to wonder…

Can fiction be too real?

The made a comment about my style and approach to the story and said it was not like any he’d read before because much of my main character’s personal life played a key role in the story. And it made me think of comments from other beta readers who kept using the word ‘real’ to refer to the stories. I wasn’t quite sure what that meant but I assumed it was a good thing because of the enthusiasm with which it was said.

One reader even said she loved it because she felt like she got to be the main character and have the adventure as her. Again, seemed like a compliment and something to be happy about. But then this recent feedback from the other reader got me thinking. Maybe he was trying to say the same thing. That this immersion into the character’s life was more than most? Wasn’t usually done? Maybe that it was real or too real?

So I wondering what do you think?

Do you think that fiction should feel so real that you can be the main character and have her adventure as you’re reading?

Or is that too much?

Do you want to feel a distance from the main character and prefer to be a fly on the wall rather than wear her skin?

I’d really be interested in knowing what people think about that, so please feel free to tell me what you think.

In the meantime, back to editing.

Cheers.

Writer Chick
Copyright 2015

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18 thoughts on “Beta Readers, Feedback and “Real” Fiction

  1. I personally like to be a part of a story rather than a “fly on the wall”. It’s the difference between going out and building a bonfire and roasting some marshmallows myself, or sitting down and watching a TV show about others doing it.

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  2. Identifying with the MC, being able to “see” yourself as her/him is what many writers hope to elicit from their readers. That’s what sells books 🙂 All the girls who read Twilight saw themselves in Bella’s shoes, which made them connect with and care about what was happening in the novel. To be able to write a character like that … congratulations! It’s one of the hardest things to do.

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    1. Hey Ramona,
      I always thought so too – but then it occurred to me that maybe that could also make a reader uncomfortable. My genre is geared toward women (mystery) and my MC is a woman, so maybe that is the difference. Perhaps female readers are more inclined to wear the skin of the main character than male readers – unless the MC is Schwartzeneigher, right? 😉

      Annie

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It could be, Annie. We are more able to empathize and we generally run on a different range of emotions… You know, the old men are from Mars & women from Venus. But I stand by my opinion: it’s the hallmark of a great author being able to write a character readers can readily identify with. If I were you, I’d have a celebratory cup of champagne 😀

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      2. I don’t know about the planetary origins of either gender but I think women are generally freer with the softer emotions shall we say?

        As to celebrating, I may put that off until the books are published. 😀

        Liked by 1 person

  3. In the last 24 years I only ever read one male writer’s fiction, because I like his characters. When I was reading other writer’s fictional stories, it was only to escape myself. So, I read fiction for the story, not to be in the story. Did this make sense?

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    1. Wow, really? I read a lot of both myself – though lots of male writers because I favor mysteries and crime stories and it seems like there are more men writing them – though maybe not.

      Sure it makes total sense. That’s why I was interested in how other readers approach fiction and how they like to or not be involved with the characters. I find it an interesting topic.

      😀

      Liked by 2 people

  4. My favourite books are ones whose world-building makes me feel like another character within them….. So I say it sounds like you’re doing a good job!

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  5. Great blog – lots of food for thought. I think it really depends on the book. Sometimes feeling like the character can actually be a bit too much to bear if the events are painful / tragic. For instance, I heard Akhil Sharma, the author of Family Life talk about how one of the hardest part about writing about his hard childhood was deciding how much pain to share with the reader. He said he didn’t want to share too much that the reader would shut the book because it became too much to bear. I write more about this at: https://morethanjustonething.wordpress.com/2015/02/23/growing-up-broken-akhil-sharmas-family-life/

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    1. Yes, I think you have a point – particularly about the book you mention. That would be hard to wear that person’s skin so to speak. Although my post was with respect to fiction. I believe non-fiction, especially memoirs would be hard to read if you were too immersed in the writer’s skin. Although I suppose it’s possible.

      Thanks for your comments and adding to the conversation. 🙂
      Cheers.
      WC

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You know, I have to say I really admire writers who can write memoirs – I think that kind of honesty is a very difficult thing to do well.

        And I can see why a writer might fictionalize his/her memoirs for both themselves and the readers. It may be safety or fear of triggers (lots of chatter about that lately on the Internet) and traumatizing others. We all have our own self-protecting mechanisms in play, right?

        And it’s an interesting thing to contemplate your comfort level as a writer, against the comfort level of your reader while still trying to right the best and most true story you can. LOL, nobody said being a writer was easy though. 😉
        WC

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  6. Hi Annie:

    These days I read mostly non-fiction, the bulk being biographies, and historical fiction. So, I normally find myself an observer of events as they unfold. This probably better suits my personality, as I enjoy watching other people much more than I like talking with them. 🙂 So, it should come as no surprise when I sit down to read a work of pure fiction, it’s the story that compels me to read further, not necessarily identifying with (or even liking) or assuming the identity of the main character. I think this approach allows me to appreciate to a greater extent the personalities and motivations of other characters in the book, even one written in the first person.

    – Jody

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    1. Hey Jody,
      “I enjoy watching other people much more than I like talking with them” I find that a fascinating statement. Very writerly. 🙂 And an interesting approach to reading – but I can see how that would work. It’s amazing to me what motivates people to read and the motivations are wide and varied. As a writer, I find human beings and the human experience so dang interesting that I’m compelled to write about them. But I like watching and talking. LOL. Not sure where that puts me though. 😉

      Thanks for your thoughts and insights.

      Annie

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