Thursday, 10 December 2009
Readers eh? Can’t live with them, etc., etc.
One of the questions I find difficult to answer is the one about whether we have a reader in mind when we write. I know I go on about the characters being free to do what they like but that’s the way it feels. So, in a way, when I’m recording their activities and dialogue, I’m being the reader (sort of). OK, in the end, it’s the writer-me who’s changing things around, editing sentences and segments to get the rhythms ‘right’, but the characters take precedence over almost everything else.
The reason I bring this up, however, is that in the course of answering an email from Jean it struck me that once you’ve blogged a few times and got a few comments you’re aware of your potential (and actual) readers. Which means that the character you’re watching/creating/recording is you and you can begin to anticipate what sort of responses he/it might provoke in the ‘audience’.
Character-Me (CM): OK, smart-arse, prove it.
Writer- Me (WM): What?
CM: Make me do and say things for Scary, Marley, Michael and the others.
WM: It’s not that blatant. It’s more subtle.
WM: Anyway, if I tried that, I’d be bound to offend someone.
CM: Oh, and we can’t have that, can we? Better to stay all bland and cowardly and non-controversial. You’re pathetic. Real writers upset people all the time.
WM: Well, I can do that in books and stories. No need for it here.
CM: Why not?
WM: Because when you start blogging you make … well, sort of friends.
CM: See? You’re a coward.
CM: That false hesitation there – the ‘well, sort of’ bit. Why be so … apologetic about it? Why not just say friends? Why not commit? You’re afraid you’ll have to send them Christmas cards, aren’t you?
WM: No, I’m not. It’s … oh, you wouldn’t understand.
CM: Huh, I can read you like a book.
WM: Oh yeah?
CM: Yeah. You laugh like hell when you read Michael’s blogs and you know you can’t make him laugh as much so you chuck in big words now and then and pretend to be clever.
WM: That’s not true.
CM: Yes it is – and now you know he’s impressed by you being dumped by a girl to Tchaikovsky, you’re probably looking up the names of other composers to drop into your postings.
WM: That’s rubbish.
CM: No it’s not. You wouldn’t try that with Gary, would you? Gary knows stuff. Gary’s wise. And it’s not just about ancient Greece, it’s about the Beatles and guitars and lyrics. You’re trying to be as smart as he is.
WM: No I’m not. And anyway, Michael’s wise too.
CM: See, covering your backside all the time. So busy not offending people you’re actually licking their …
WM: No I’m not.
CM: Course you are. Same with Jean. She started you blogging. And she interviews real writers for one of her blogs, so you have to impress her, too.
WM: You know, you’re one of the nastiest characters I’ve written for ages.
CM: (Sardonic grin.) Huh, you just don’t like the truth. You’d like Marley to think you’re the writerly equivalent of that bloke whose abdomen you stole to illustrate that blog earlier.
WM: No I wouldn’t. I’ve told them I’m a granddad.
CM: Yeah, why? For the sympathy vote. You just hope they’ll say ‘Poor old bugger’ and let you get away with stuff.
WM: Anyway, before I let you say anything about Marley, I need to check the score in the latest Saints game.
WM: Hey shut up with the coward crap.
CM: Ooooh, touched a nerve, have I?
WM: I don’t think you know what nerves are. You’re just spiteful, one of those guys who need to undermine others because of your own inadequacy.
CM: Hmmm. Interesting. You realise I’m you, don’t you?
WM: Er … well, yes. But …
CM: Better keep quiet about the inadequacies then, eh? Better change the subject. Do one of those wandering off at a tangent things to convince Linda you’ve got a quirky way of thinking.
WM: Linda knows what she’s talking about. She’s another who gets other writers involved, encourages them to reveal their methods.
CM: Pity you don’t have a method. You’re too busy creating ‘the right image’.
WM: Huh, well I cocked it up by letting them see you, didn’t I?
CM: Who knows? You’re the writer. Why’ve you let me go on like this? Why can’t you be like Scary?
WM: What d’you mean?
CM: You’ve read her blog. What you see is what you get. She’s funny and she says exactly what she thinks. God knows why she comes here to read this rambling garbage.
WM: Hey, you know nothing about any of them. For example, did you know that Sheila was a ‘Mongrel Christian’?
CM: Course I did. I read her profile. What beats me is why she reads your unbelieving, absurdist nonsense.
WM: Because Christians forgive maybe. Anyway, in the last blog of hers I read she had the sentence ‘Mum’s here with Christmas in her smile’. I think that’s great.
CM: Look, if you want this to be a real conversation, can you cut out the sycophancy?
WM: Hmmm, thanks. Sycophancy. Michael’ll like that. So will Anneke.
CM: Oh no, I’m not doing your obfuscation for you. Hey, stop it.
CM: Making me say stuff like ‘obfuscation’. Next you’ll have me questioning whether Schoenberg’s atonal music really was degenerate art. Damn. That’s for bloody Michael, isn’t it?
WM: Maybe. Anyway, what I’d really like you to do for me now is an exegetical analysis of Joyce’s Ulysses, or perhaps a quick ‘Existentialism for Beginners’.
I’m sorry to have to report that, at that point, Character-Me clapped his hand over his mouth and refused to continue. See? The writer always gets his/her way.