Piper’s Reach: The Writer and the Reader

Piper’s Reach – The Writer and the Reader

A writing adage you see on various blogs is to write for your ideal reader, the audience you want to read your work. You create in your mind an image of a specific person, male and/or female, the type of person you imagine will enjoy reading your novel. The specific reader in mind, may in fact, be you.

When Jodi Cleghorn (@JodiCleghorn) and I sat down to write the epistolary serial Post Marked: Piper’s Reach (now being edited as an epistolary novel), it presented an interesting dichotomy. The instigation of the No Spoiler Policy (we did not discuss the plot or character development, but rather let the narrative form as an organic process) meant we were thrust into the role as simultaneous writer and reader.

It was unique as Jodi wrote as the character of Ella-Louise and I wrote as the character of Jude; two high school friends reunited by letter after 20 years of silence.

Click here to read about Piper’s Reach – The Project

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As each letter was written, posted and received, we had no idea of its content in regards to plot or character. It was the perfect balance between writer and reader. 

We wrote as authors, read it as readers. 

With each letter we would read and reread from different perspectives:

As writers:

  • Looking for the momentum and motivation in the character’s actions and how it moved the plot forward
  • Contemplating different permutations of plot for both characters
  • Establishing back-story and history for each character, events significant to both characters and how it affected the present day.

As readers:

  • We became caught up in the lives of the characters; how their past and present intertwined, split, became a messy entanglement and how they tried to sort it out.
  • We read the voice of each character, how Ella-Louise and Jude articulated their thoughts, what they wrote about and how they expressed it; what they revealed and what they kept hidden.

Jodi asked if I read the letters as the character of Jude or as myself because I was both catalyst and consumer, the writer and the reader. It was hard to separate myself from the narrative of Ella-Louise and Jude, to be solely the reader as each new letter was a revelation of character, plot, motivation and secrets.

There were times when I deliberately distanced myself from the character of Jude to read a letter, to be the reader and not the writer. I let myself be absorbed into the world of Ella-Louise as she revealed it, taking it at face value, rereading it again to further my understanding of who she was and what she wanted.

In the same way there were letters I read intentionally read as the character of Jude to feel the impact of the letter as Ella-Louise wrote to her dearest and most-loved friend.

Engaging with the letter as either writer or reader produced strong emotions, even to the point of tears.

Now we are in the editing phase, we get to experience the narrative of our characters all over again, this time solely as readers. After we have made our notes and compared them we will return to our role as writers and continue fashioning the narrative and our characters.

It lead me back to a question I have asked myself over the last couple of years in regards to writing and reading: Is a reader more interested in the story or the writing?

Is it an either/or, both/and dichotomy? Is the reader more interested in being moved by the story than the power of the words? Or is it the power of the words the more important aspect for the reader?

The power of storytelling versus power of writing with which there is no clear answer. The answer will not be a “Yes” or “No” response but a sliding continuum of responses. For some readers story will trump the writing and for other readers the power of the words will enhance the story and be the focus.

As a writer I aim to balance the power of the story with power of the word. I use words to convey the power and strength of the story, and I want you to be engaged as a reader with the story, drawn in by the power of the words.

Keep an eye for updates on the progress of Post Marked: Piper’s Reach and I hope you enjoy the story.

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4 responses to “Piper’s Reach: The Writer and the Reader

  1. It’s a funny thing, being a writer and a reader. The more I get into writing the more I notice when reading. I like to just fall into a story and forget the writing. Sometimes that’s impossible. Especially with my own writing 🙂

    • Sometimes I read back over my own work, months or years later, and forgot I wrote it. I can also see my development and progress as a writer.
      I so enjoy letting myself go in a novel when reading, letting the writing be as it is. There are times when I do focus intently on the language to understand how it works.

  2. I love reading and when I started writing, I worried that it would change the way I read novels. But, Stephen King had some great advice, “First read the book as a reader…then go back and read it as a writer.” I follow that advice and it’s never let me down.

    Great post..my first visit here. Enjoyed it!

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