When Authorial Intentions Go Awry

Posted by ches@writes4attention.com In: Writing No comments

I’m actively trying to find a home for my second novel, Dead Muse Wake. So far, I’ve had two requests for the full manuscript and one request for a partial. If you’ve been in the query trenches, you know that’s like finding money! The response to one of the full requests came back Friday.


No big deal, except for the fact that the query was sent to one of my dream agents. The rejection came from someone I assume is an assistant, a perfectly lovely person. The response was lengthy and detailed, almost unheard of as literary rejections go. The gist of it was that my main character, a writer, is too inconsistent, too unrelatable, too unlikeable, while the one person who grounds him plays a smaller and smaller role as the novel goes on.

When I finished reading the critique, I thought, “You say all this like it’s a bad thing.” To me, my protagonist is like an untethered balloon floating in the wind. He has no grounding because he’s invested his identity in the one thing he can’t have—literary success. He’s depressed, sometimes manic, off his meds, and he’s taken his pursuit to an unhealthy, self-destructive level. You’re supposed to think he’s a hot mess. The intent, of course, is for all of this to converge into a satisfying, albeit weird, conclusion.

But the reality is, if I can’t keep a reader with me all the way through, the book isn’t worth a damn thing. Right? But where does authorial intent stop and a reader’s perception begin? Does an author have a responsibility to alter his intent for the benefit of his audience? Does she sell a piece of her creative soul for the entertainment value of her readers?

Oh yeah. Now I remember why I wrote this damn book to begin with.

I’m not worried, though. Yet. It’s only one opinion. I’ve always believed my audience is any creative person who has been swept up in the madness between self-expression and commercial viability.

And we are legion.



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