by Katy White
Recently, the internet has been abuzz with the story of an author who chose to cyberstalk (then physically stalk) a reviewer whom she felt had been particularly harsh in her review. While I don't want to get into the details and, truthfully, wish I'd never heard about it in the first place, I've thought a lot about why this is resonating with the writing community so much and why I feel the way I feel about it. And in doing so, I've come to one conclusion:
I don't want to be universally loved. Not as an author. Not even as a person.
Sure, I wish I lived my life above reproach and offense (which I completely, unquestioningly do not), but even if I did that, people would still have a problem with me. The Savior lived His life perfectly. Yet look at how polarizing a figure He was and still is in our day! Even Christians view Him and His teachings differently. Heck, even Mormons do. Sometimes within our own families. All of life's beauty and heartache have agency at its center, and with agency comes different experiences and opinions.
I recently had my two best friends read my new WIP. One of them is a therapist and the other is a nurse. My therapist BFF gave me the feedback that one of the characters should be darker and consider suicide, as it was not only consistent with the character's mental illness, but it would also lead to an important revelation to my main character that would give her the growth she needed. And, in my perspective, her feedback was bang on. I made the change, and I think the story is stronger for it.
Yet my other best friend, the nurse, read the revised version and said that was the only part she had a problem with. Based on personal experiences, she has a problem reading about suicide and couldn't connect to the character as a result.
And you know what? I'm happy about that. I'm happy that she had a strong emotion about it, even if it wasn't the emotion I intended in writing the character or scenes. Because she's a human being reading her book through the lenses of her own personal experience, not mine.
Think of it this way: if everyone who reads my book responds exactly the way I want them to, that obviously means the world has been taken over by automatons who have all been created in my image.
Holy shnikes, is that ever a terrifying thought.
So the next time you write something, remember to actively hope that people react differently to it. Because otherwise, you're in a weird Doctor Who version of reality that's probably going to end with you being harvested by your own automatons for spare organs.