Reader Entitlement: What Authors Owe Us

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Can we talk about what an uproar JK Rowling’s latest interview caused?

If you’re not familiar with what happened, JK Rowling reportedly admitted during the interview, that she regretted putting Hermione and Ron together, and she wished she had paired her with Harry. This made a lot of Ron/Hermione shippers VERY angry, and twitter was a storm of hurt feelings and angry replies just a few days ago. Personally, I felt a little betrayed. I invested a lot of time into the Harry Potter series, I’m a huge fan. I love Hermione and Ron together, and I feel that putting her with Harry would be a cliche. The leading lady always ends up with the leading man, right? Just once, it was nice to see the “sidekick” end up with the girl.

If Hermione and Harry had been together, that would have resulted in Ron being the most awkward third wheel EVER, trailing along behind the smart Hermione and the heroic Harry. And who knows, at that point, maybe JK Rowling WOULD have killed him off.

So should Rowling have kept this to herself?  I’m going to say yes. If you have doubts about how you ended a book, don’t share them. You very well might ruin the magic for fans.

When Readers React Strongly.

Most of the comments on twitter were perfectly reasonable. We were sad, we were mourning a romance that was firmly fixed in our heads. I didn’t see anyone go off the rails, threatening or calling names or anything like that. I was surprised, actually. So much of the time when there is backlash against an author it has the tendency to turn ugly. One such example is the angry reaction to Veronica Roth’s book “Allegiant”, which is the final installment in the Divergent series.

Fans were livid, and occasionally someone still pops up in her twitter feed to yell at her about how they hated the ending. Do fans have a right to be angry? Absolutely. They have a right to whatever emotional reaction the book creates while they’re reading it. There’s no WRONG way to read a book. But do they have a right to take to twitter to tell Roth how much they hated it? Maybe. But some fans crossed even that line, going up to the author at signings and telling her the book was horrible and how much they hated it. There were death threats, and threats of physical violence directed at her online.

There’s a line, and fans crossed it.

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Another example is Charlene Harris, the author of the “Trueblood” series. Fans hated the ending of the book series, and they took it out on her verbally. For me, a fan who stuck with the books until the very last two books (after that I put them down) I could see that the series was slowly unraveling. The plot was meandering all over the place, and aside from a new influx of potential boyfriends each novel, I couldn’t see where it was going. So I put it down. Other fans stuck with it until the end, and when they were finished, they were outraged. A lot of the feedback came in the form of “we have been your loyal fans for years, and you didn’t give us what we wanted”. Yes, this is the reader feeling ENTITLED.

But, is it warranted?

Well, yes. And also no.

What Does the Author Owe Us?

I expect the author to write the best story they can. I expect characters to act the way they naturally would, and not to fit in with a plot line they had already planned out. I expect sacrifice to have meaning, and for things to be wrapped up with no major plot lines left hanging. In short, what I’m entitled to is a good story. The best story that the author has in them.

Sometimes I feel like what I’ve just read wasn’t the best story, and in that case, I have a right to say so in a review. I do not have a right to verbally assault or threaten the author. Personally, I would also never tell an author on twitter “I hated your book”. As a reader, are we entitled to do so? Maybe. But don’t expect any answer back from the author.

In many cases, readers are demanding the books come out faster, or there is backlash if the publication date is delayed. But shouldn’t our favorite authors have time to write the book the best way they can? It seems readers either complain about a drop in quality (the books are getting sloppy!) or they complain they aren’t coming out fast enough (you pushed the date back).

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Authors Can’t Please Everyone.

It’s impossible. Trying to do so would result in an absolutely ridiculous story. When authors have TRIED to do that, they’ve ended up with something that pleases no one.

What are your thoughts on reader entitlement? What does an author owe their readers?

Tune in this Sunday for the Word Nerds live chat. We’ll be discussing the issue live, as well as answering questions or comments you send our way.

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8 responses to “Reader Entitlement: What Authors Owe Us

  1. As an author, I try my best to give my readers the story they want without changing the way I feel about my story. After all, it is my story and I can’t give up a part of me to please all my readers. So as a reader, I might be disappointed with how my fav books have ended, but I would not jump on the author about it. It’s their book, their choice, their story.

    I can’t believe there were threats thrown at authors just because the story did not go the way the reader wanted. Hey, if you don’t like it, why not write your own fan fiction? Or maybe write your own book? To a certain extent, authors should get the respect they deserve, and readers should learn to give it.

    Authors owe their readers a story they think is worthy, and readers owe authors respect.

    • Well said! I definitely think there needs to be a balance. Authors need to stay true to the story they were supposed to write. It must be frustrating to have your audience demanding something, and to know that’s not the way you want it (or, in some cases, not the guy you want her to end up with).

  2. Hey er bear!
    I think this is great and will probably calm down all the mutiny in the Harry Potter fandom (I’m going to get everyone I know to read this!)
    But dontcha think that maybe if the story spoke to the Author first and makes the Author happy that it happened the way it happened without them having any regrets about should be good enough for the readers to accept that yes, I don’t like this, but I also have to understand that THIS is what my author wanted and THIS is what my author is satisfied with so why shouldn’t I be satisfied too?
    It’s just a thought to those of us who were loyally committed to any fandom and would stick with it to the end…
    I still support Romione though, nothing changes that.

    xoxoxoxo
    San

    • Absolutely agree. And most of the time I would say “Whatever the author wants” but the story is done, and I don’t see much point in JK saying what she did.

      I would never complain if she ACTUALLY wrote it into the story, the story is the way it is!

  3. I completely agree. Fans have a right to be upset about an ending, but not threaten the author. Personally, I loved the ending of Divergent because SPOILERS***********************************************************
    Tris had cheated death too many times, it would have been unsatisfactory is she had magically escaped again.
    I also am a total Ron/Hermione fan. In the beginning of the books, I wasn’t terribly fond of Ron, but I grew to love him and it seemed that Hermione did too. Having Harry and Hermione get together would have been extremely cliché.
    In my opinion, having a contradictory ending or subplot is fine if that’s where your story needed to go, but I don’t like when authors “reveal” something they wished they had done or something they later discovered about their characters. Like when J.K Rowling announced she imagined Dumbledore as gay. It didn’t fit for me. I remember him mentioning in the books an old lady friend. Dropping that bomb after the fact, after all the books have been released, was just odd to me, and, like you said, took away some of the magic in learning about the characters yourself.

    • We definitely have a right to an emotional reaction, and Veronica Roth even said “it’s okay to vent’, just not…threaten.

      I agree with you in a way, just…the way it was written, it was not pulled off right for me. I didn’t find the ending to be meaningful enough for me. I think the ending still could have been the way it was, and if it was written with enough MEANING then I would be okay with it. As it was, instead of feeling that it was bitter sweet but satisfying, I put the book down feeling…empty.

      That said, I will still read anything Veronica Roth puts out. I do enjoy her work.

      I agree on the last point. The thing with Dumbledore I didn’t particularly mind though. During the actual story I thought his relationship with Grindelwald was pretty…er, close.So it wasn’t even that surprising. That said, I was a bit irritated that it wasn’t in the actual novel. He could have been one of the most iconic gay characters in the world of fantasy literature. So… slightly disappointing.

  4. As far as the Divergent Trilogy…I’m going to try and put this as vaguely as possible so as not to spoil anything for anyone:

    Was I disappointed in Allegiant? Very much so…but not until the end, and I think that it says something very positive in regards to Ms. Roth’s writing ability that the ending of Allegiant evoked such a strong emotional response in me, though that response was one of dumbfounded anger and shock. To have your readers become so emotionally invested in a character/world that they become either ecstatic or outraged by the resolution is, I think, a goal all of us writers aspire to. That said, I think it was a senseless sacrifice, one that was not necessary, yet so characteristic of that particular person’s faction of origin.

    I would absolutely LOVE to have readers get that emotional over my characters, my worlds, my stories, whether that emotion is good or bad. It means I have crafted something so wonderful that it transcends written words and touches people on a deeper level.

    I don’t believe that we, as readers, are *entitled* to anything from the storytellers, and I’d like to explain that.

    I’m sure you might agree with me on this statement, that every story an author produces contains a portion of that writer’s very soul. I’ve read Frost (loved it, btw), and just as you can tell when a story is a half-hearted attempt, I could tell that you really poured some proverbial blood, sweat, and tears into it. The same goes for me with The Sleeper Queen. Writing a novel is not easy, and not everyone can do it.

    But with any book I read, I go into it knowing that I am merely a visitor in the writer’s theater. It is their story, their world…and when it is skillfully woven, I am drawn in with the warm welcome of an old friend. I was not happy with the ending of Allegiant…I was rather angry, in fact, and sure, I felt I could write a “better” (quotations because it is a subjective term) ending than Ms. Roth did. However, as a writer, I respect the fact that it is HER story, and as readers, we were merely along for the ride, and the fact that I felt so strongly about the end of Allegiant instilled even more respect in me for her work. You got me, Veronica. You hooked me, and you took me on a wonderful ride, and while I hated the end, it’s very hard for a book to grip me the way the Divergent Trilogy did.

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