Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Trust, or Not Breaking Promises to Your Readers

Firebrand got me thinking about some reading related issues, so this is one of a few posts about that. This won't have any spoilers for Firebrand, but I am going to be talking extensively about problems with Mirror Sight, so be warned.

We writers talk about so many reader-related concepts: suspension of disbelief, spoon-feeding, infodumps, the endless debates on prologues and why readers skip them, etc. One topic I think gets overlooked somewhat is that there exists a certain level of trust between the author and their fans. If you establish a certain core idea in your work, you will be expected to follow through, and not doing so breaks the trust of your readers and results in a lot of disappointed and upset fans.

It's an easy thing to do; writing is one of the few truly isolated arts, and even in the age of social media it's not uncommon for an author to have little or no public presence. If anything, it makes it even more important that this bond of trust be carefully maintained.

And that is why I hated Mirror Sight.

For 4 books Rider Karigan and King Zachary have developed a mutual but unrequited love, a relationship that is tested constantly by their differences in station and duties that often require making hard decisions. Many of those decisions have immediate and lasting impacts on both characters, and often the kingdom itself. But for all of that, neither has ever wavered in their unspoken devotion to each other.

Then Mirror Sight comes along. Here is Karigan, alone in a time that is not her own, in a future where everything they've fought for has failed, and her beloved king is long dead. In the course of her desperate mission to find out what happened and how to prevent it, she comes in contact with Cade Harlowe, a man who dreams of being a Weapon. And Karigan, acting completely out of character, falls in love with him almost immediately.

That right there is how you break a reader's trust. For almost the entirety of the series, Karigan is driven not just by her sworn service to the king, but also by her attraction to and eventual love of him. To have her throw it all away for this random, relatively unremarkable man in the middle of the most dangerous, dire mission yet is a slap in the face. It goes against everything the series has been building up to in the worst possible way.

Don't make promises you aren't prepared to keep. Sometimes that means changing your vision of the story. Whether Britain intended for Karigan and Zachary to be a couple is irrelevant, because they have been in almost every way that counts since First Rider's Call; as readers we're not just following the epic adventure to take down the Second Empire and destroy Mornhaven the Black once and for all. We're invested in seeing how soulmates overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles to find the happiness they deserve.

She came so very close to breaking my trust in her as the author of this series; with Firebrand I am willing to forgive. But I will not forget. There will always be that small amount of doubt in the back of my mind going into every new book. Please, for the love of the stories, don't ever threaten your readers like that. It will end poorly for everyone.

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