Wednesday Warble: Do readers really need spoon-feeding?

joshua winning sentinel blog postEvery Wednesday (or whenever he feels like it), Sentinel author Joshua Winning will be checking in to variously vent, whine and blab about a topic that’s playing havoc with his tiny little mind .

This week: spoon-feeding.

It finally happened. Sentinel received a bad review. Well, the four and five stars couldn’t last forever, could they? They were great while they lasted, but honestly, I’m glad this one-star tirade happened. No, really.

I know this column’s called the ‘Wednesday Warble’, but this isn’t going to be a rant about bad reviews. Mostly because, well, what’s the point? And also because that bad review prompted a mini epiphany. That epiphany was: Not everybody is going to get my writing.

It sounds like such an obvious thing (after all, Tarantino has just as many detractors as he does disciples, not to compare myself to Tarantino or anything), but for me it was something of a revelation. Here was somebody who just didn’t get me or my book. The ranting review made that point loud and clear numerous times.

After I’d read the review, two things happened. First, I spoon-fed myself an entire tub of Ben & Jerry’s, phoned a few 0800 numbers and shaved my eyebrows off in rage (note: I’m kidding… you hope). Then, I found myself wondering: If somebody wasn’t able to read between the lines in Sentinelshould I be making more of an effort to spoon-feed readers?

Y’see, the main argument of this review was that, well, Sentinel, was too mysterious. Which is bang on. Sentinel doesn’t give away any easy answers. It invites you into a new, mysterious world that’s as evasive as smoke. Sentinel enjoys teasing you just like a nervy cat. It asks for your trust and requests that you be patient – while also throwing some pretty exciting stuff around as those answers are gradually delivered.

As a reader, I love to be tantalised and teased. I don’t want all the answers mashed down my throat like so much fattening ice cream. I like to find clues for myself, to tie pieces together and emerge feeling fulfilled and entertained. That’s what I went for with Sentinel, which has the benefit of being the first part in a trilogy, meaning mysteries can play out for longer. I never want to talk (or write) down to my readers. I expect them to keep up, and woe betide anybody who falls behind.

That’s probably a strength and a flaw. But that’s OK. Not everybody is going to get Sentinel, but I’d rather be mysterious and annoyingly elusive than start handing out easy answers like so much free chocolate on Halloween.

– Joshua Winning

4 thoughts on “Wednesday Warble: Do readers really need spoon-feeding?”

  1. You already know this, but I thought Sentinel was amazing. I felt like that pace at which things unfolded was just right – teasing the readers along with a mystery, revealing just enough information to answer a question or two and raise even more questions. I also find the slow unfolding of the story more interesting and rewarding than being given all the answers at once. I also read that review and found myself wondering if they knew Sentinel is the first book in a series and that no, you don’t tell everything in the first pages of the first book. Along with other issues I had with that review.

    Basically, I say, keep doing what you’re doing because you’re doing it right 🙂

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