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On Getting What You Want

Jacqueline Carey has some interesting input on the writer/reader relationship, particularly with regards to Stephenie Meyer's Twilight books and their fallout:

So I've been thinking lately about indulgence. From a writer's standpoint, it's been interesting to read about the fan backlash against Breaking Dawn, the latest book in the megaselling Twilight series. Disclaimer: I haven't read any of them, and have no personal opinion. But I read an interview with Stephenie Meyer in which she discussed poring over discussion boards, etc, in a desire to be sure she gave her readers exactly what they wanted. When most writers' work goes off the tracks, it's due to self-indulgence. In this case, it's the opposite.

Of course, the book sold a bazillion copies anyway, so what do I know? But I feel bad for Stephenie Meyer, because I'm guessing that doesn't entirely assauge the pain of having half her loyal fanbase savage her work for giving them everything she thought they wanted. The thing is, what you think you want and what you really want may not be the same. For example, no one ever says, "I wish you'd kill off a couple of characters that I really like." But sometimes (I'm thinking of the death of Anafiel Delaunay and Alcuin in Kushiel's Dart) an element of tragedy is what's needed to give the plot impetus and the story a deeper emotional resonance.

I do listen to my readers; but ultimately, I try to write in the service of the story. When readers tell me they want more of Phèdre and Joscelin, I think, "No, you don't." Because I can't possibly take the arc of their storyline to greater heights than it's gone, and while I might be able to write something that would scratch that familiar itch, in the end, it would be disappointing. When readers tell me they'd love to see Alais' story told, and find out whether or not Imriel and Sidonie ever had that horde of children, I think, "No, you don't." Because it would strain the limits of credibility to give Alais her own epic arc on the heels of so many others, and push Phèdre and Joscelin into the roles of doting grandparents. You don't want that, you really don't.

I've heard a number of complaints about Breaking Dawn. Personally, I think the book's conclusion made sense on the emotional level if not on the biological level. (With the caveat that, really, none of the "biology" of the characters made sense in the other books, so why should it in this one?) It's basically the "ever after" volume. Although actually I wouldn't mind it if there was an "ever after after" volume in which the romantic leads went to college, ended up maturing, and so forth. Cos, really, who imagines marrying their love interest from when they were sixteen...and having it actually work out completely? But I guess I'm just cynical.

At any rate, I enjoyed Carey's points. I'm one of those who would *love* to hear more about Phedre and Josceline. In fact, I've often wanted to write fanfic about them, but haven't dared to because 1) it would suck so horribly in comparison to Carey's writing, and 2) what could I possibly say?

But fanfic is another discussion for another day...

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