Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Perception & Other Fine Lines

Half full or half empty?
Perception is uniquely individual and can be shaped by past experiences.

In the 1980s, smoking was allowed at the rear of airplanes. Being a non-smoker, I always sat in front. But on one business trip, I joined a co-worker sitting behind the wings. The flight was uneventful until the landing. Who knew the cowling would rotate off the top of the engine to act as an air brake? Who wouldn’t scream if they thought the engine was breaking apart? But it was an every-flight occurrence for the smokers.

Everyone perceives what they read differently.

I submitted the first several chapters of a cozy mystery I’m writing for critique. I received feedback ranging from “love it” to “hate it.” I reflected on the feedback and realized I’d written a toxic work environment. It was a stellar setting for my detective series, but it bombed out with cozy readers.

I revised the atmosphere of the work setting and resubmitted my chapters to the same readers. Most readers preferred the supportive work environment. Several, though, preferred the darker, conflict-infused version.

I found the mixed responses intriguing and wondered if the opinions split along the cozy / non-cozy divide. Readers have expectations based on the book’s genre, and I’d stumbled across the line in my initial attempt at creating this art form.

Understanding reader expectation is important for writing successful genre books. But best-selling author status isn’t why I write. It will be interesting to see if this book ‘conforms’ or morphs into a Frankenstein-ian fusion of genres.