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Buildin' a Heart Bridge to Your Reader

The other day, I read something in an interview that struck me with the full force of a unicorn headbutt. (Now that's striking!) The interview was between anonymous advice blogger Sugar and the author of a recently published memoir titled The Chronology of Water, Lidia Yuknavitch. When asked about what she hoped her writing would achieve out in the world, Lydia had this to say:
What I hope my writing "does" has radically changed in the last few years. [...] Up until a few years ago, the truth is, everything I wrote was from a deeply alienated position. When I thought about a "reader," I thought pretty quickly after that, "**** you, reader. I don’t give a **** what you think about what I wrote ever." [...] Charming, huh?

But something happened in the last three years that literally obliterated the writer I was. Head, heart, body. And in the books I am writing now, to my astonishment, I imagined a reader with a tenderness and compassion I didn’t even know I had the ability to feel. I imagined making heart bridges to a reader — I imagined that even if this reader or that reader hated what I’d written, it was worth it to build the word bridge straight up to the flesh of their body. In case. In case, like me, they could admit that we want to love and be loved. In spite of it all. And that when we enter the room of “otherness” fully, mercifully, there are others with us.

So I guess I’m saying I hope my writing helps at least one reader feel less alone and more brave about leaning into whatever their own life figures for them.
As you can probably tell by my over-the-top bolding, it was the last paragraph of Lydia's answer that really got to me.

As a writer, it's tough to imagine your mystical ~reader~, let alone write for them. True, you can interact with potential readers on Twitter and Facebook, and you may even see them in your daily life. But it's still difficult to keep the concept of a general ~reader~ in mind--and to know, in your heart, what you want your book to achieve while in the hands of this person. What effect you want it to have on them. What use you want it to have for them.

Every reader is different--truly, wonderfully different. And every reader will interpret the lessons, the overt messages, of our stories differently. But with Lidia's help, I've realized that at the core of our writing, we have an amazing power.

For me, Lidia's quote displays a universal importance behind the writer-reader relationship. Every reader may be different, but nearly every reader can appreciate feeling connected to someone else (AKA: you). Writers, as a species, have all kinds of goals when it comes to their work. But I think few of us could deny that some success lies in making readers feel less alone and more loved.

The big question is how to create this connection. What can you write that will form a bridge from your heart to the heart of your reader? That's something we can only answer for ourselves. And of course, all this lovey-dovey stuff ain't the only way of looking at things. What do you hope your writing will "do" out in the hands of readers? Are you looking to help, to enlighten, to dazzle, or something else entirely?
Emilia Plater

Emilia is a YA author who avoids studying, food that isn't covered in cheese, and waking up before 10:30AM whenever possible. A bundle of confusions.

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  1. Ideally I suppose I want my writing to do for the reader what my favourite books have done for me. Let me feel like I'm not alone, and in times of trouble give me somewhere else to go for a while.

  2. I'd like my books to encourage a sense of adventure and inner strength. I think it's especially important in YA literature.

  3. I would really love for my writing to make a reader understand something he or she didn't understand before, or introduce a new perspective on an old, supposedly concrete subject / theme. Many of my favorite books have changed the way I think about even the simplest things. It would make me incredibly satisfied if someone could read my writing and say, "Wow, that really made me think."

  4. I found your blog because I have a Google alert set up for both "Lidia Yuknavitch" and "The Chronology of Water." We are representing her memoir right now over on our website, The Lit Pub, and we are discussing her writing chapter by chapter (one chapter a day, every Monday - Thursday). If you'd ever like to know more about Lidia, please check us out. She often stops by and leaves comments during our discussions.

    Likewise, over on The Lit Pub's Facebook wall, we recently asked our readers what they wanted their writing to "do," and we got some great answers. Anyone who left an answer here should feel welcome to leave it also on our site, in an effort to bridge these communities.

    We have very few YA writers participating in our discussions, so I am very grateful that I found your blog today. I love that #YAsaves was trending on Twitter a few weeks ago, and I think Lidia's book deals with a lot of YA themes, particularly in her flashbacks.

    I hope you will please come check us out. Lidia is an amazing writer, and I would love for her to find more readers.


  5. Books have gotten me through some pretty crappy things, so if all mine do is provide a reader with an escape from real life then I'll be happy. Sometimes we don't need a lesson or guide when bad things happen. We need to go into someone else's world, someone else's head, and forget for a while.


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Item Reviewed: Buildin' a Heart Bridge to Your Reader Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Emilia Plater