April 26, 2014

I believe the acts of reading and writing fiction should be based on relationships of mutual respect.

First and foremost is an author’s respect of the reader’s time. This is one of Kurt Vonnegut’s eight rules for writing short stories:

1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.

An author should respect her readers enough to not waste their time with unnecessary junk. This is hard – sometimes we do it by mistake, thinking the sentence we’re writing is absolutely necessary. That’s understandable, though it also represents an area for improvement.

Second is the author’s respect for her reader’s intelligence. No author should talk down to their readers, even if they’re writing for children. Those little brats are far more clever than most people realize, so there’s no need to belittle them, much less fully grown adults.

Third is an author’s respect for her characters. That doesn’t mean we have to treat them nicely, but we should respect them enough to not shamelessly exploit them, nor make them do things they wouldn’t do. Characters are fully under our control, but also not. Once we’ve decided who they are and who they will become, we shouldn’t derail them for shallow reasons (fanservice, pandering, endless sequels, etc).

Finally is the reader’s respect for an author’s time, commitment, and generosity. Make no mistake, nearly all fiction is an act of generosity, even if money changes hands. Only idiots get into this game thinking they’re going to get rich. The rest of us just can’t stop, because we have stories we badly want to share.

If all parties approached fiction with these levels of respect, I think we’d be better off. Tell me if I missed anything. The world could do with more respect.

As always, thank you for using my Amazon Affiliate link (info).

By Stephen W. Gee

Author of Wage Slave Rebellion, Freelance Heroics, and about two good blog posts out of a hundred.


  1. Reply


    How about a critic’s respect for the author and reader? A critic (whether professional or amateur) can destroy a good writer (or at least hurt them) and can promote a bad writer. Criticism should be constructive to both the author to help them improve their writing and to the reader to inform them of good works or to caution them to flaws in a work so they are not turned off when the overall work is good. Same can be said of the author and critics. Don’t take negative comments as an attack on you as opposed to your work. It’s hard to separate them I know. Use them to try to improve. Same can be said of good reviews. Read them with a critical eye and don’t allow them to inflate your ego. Figure out why the reviewer praised you and what happened in the writing process to generate that praise.

    1. Reply


      Oooo, a good point. There ought to be mutual respect between critics and authors, for a good critic is doing the author a service, and authors provide critics with the focus of their columns.

      Nice! A great addition my friend.

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