Wednesday, May 13, 2009

A matter of perspective...

During World War II Winston Churchill observed, "History is written by the victors." In much the same way, the viewpoint of a novel is written from the author's perspective. Evil or good is presented as the author perceives it.

What one person will find very disturbing because of past experience, another will find unremarkable. One writer may find some particular idea exciting or titillating while another can't even envision thinking about it, let alone bear to write about it.

I read a certain book about four years ago and personally, I enjoyed it. I found it very imaginative and exciting. A couple years ago, I stumbled across a review for that book that totally trashed it. Not only trashed it, but since the review was on a blog, all the blog commenters trashed it, too.

What was interesting to me, was when I dared to ask how many of the commenters had actually read the book, none of them would admit reading the book. So, what were they commenting on? The ideas in the book. In the worst form of censorship, they were rejecting the book unread based on another reader's review.

In the past few months, I found a recent review for the same book. That reviewer raved about it, praising the very same points the other reviewer hated. It was a matter of perspective.

In our character presentation we have to choose what to emphasize and what to sort of gloss over. Much of that decision is based on our personal baggage. If we've lived with an alcoholic, then our hero/heroine is not likely to hang out at a bar. If there is some form of abuse in our background, we're less likely to write about BDSM.

Every opinion is biased. When I ask my critique partners or friends or the neighbor next door to read something I've written, all of them will read it from that personal experience. It's impossible to be any other way. We are humans.



  1. Great blog, Anny. It's a shame that readers rejected a book based on one reviewers opinions.

  2. My dad discovered several years ago that if the critics hate a certain movie, it means he'll enjoy it.

    Sometimes that works with books too. It's all subjective, and the mood of the person at the time of the reading. I've reread books I thought I disliked, only to go back a few years later and couldn't put it down.

  3. All absolutely true. recently tried to explain to a kid who'd seen a video of Richard III that historians don't believe he was a hunchback. Hmmm, who was Shakespeare's patron? What lineage did she descend from? It's all in who's telling the story and in who's reading it.

  4. I really really try to not pay much attention to reviews. Everyone has a bias about something. I don't care for violence and don't read it. If I were to write a review of a violent book, my bias would certainly color the review.

  5. Outstanding commentary on the state of online reviews. And yes, people are quick to jump on the bandwagon and trash something, not even knowing what they are trashing. I've found that some reviewers review and dismiss my books without reading them! How did they manage that?

  6. Anny,

    I love your perspective! My English Lit teachers could have learned a lot from you. I always seemed to have too skewed a way of seeing things for them. I learned to write reports and reviews the way they wanted, but I am thrilled to say that I still have my own opinions.

  7. Hey, Susie! It's good to see you! Missed you this last little while!