What’s a writer to do when he or she just wants to curl up by the fireplace and read? I can’t get anything done. I haven’t met word count in weeks because everywhere I turn there’s a novel, batting its pages seductively, begging me to come rip off its dust jacket and caress every inch of its lovely spine. To continue with my metaphor, the novels are imploring me to explore, to taste of their secrets and to know their darkest, innermost parts. To learn–in essence–what happens next.
Neil Gaiman once wrote that “the best stories pull readers in and keep them turning the pages, eager to find the answer to the next question, ‘and then what happened?'” I’m in love with stories, of all shapes and sizes. Terse texts, verbose volumes, hell, even a nice picture book. If the story enthralls me, if it makes me ask the question, I’m in. No story, no matter how well written, can cajole me in to continuing if I’m not interested in what happens next.
Here’s the rub: I know my story. I’ve outlined it. Exposition, rising action, climax, dénouement, it’s all there. The cast is chosen and their backstories written. I’ve even general outlines for potential sequels. I don’t need to ask, “and then what happened?” With that question answered, I’m finding it hard to keep going.
As a writer, it’s my duty to continue. I’ve got word counts to meet, deadlines. I owe it to my protagonist and to his cadre of merry idiots. As a reader, I feel tortured because there are so many worlds left to explore, questions to ask, secrets to uncover. Each time I walk by an unopened book in my home, I feel the child’s heart inside me break because I know that the eleven-year old nerd I used to be wouldn’t have let a day pass without reading.
Who will win in this titanic struggle between writer and reader? Damned if I know.