As an Author, Are You a Good Audience Member?

When I studied music, many of my classes centered around analyzing music that has already been written and deconstructing and critiquing it. I blame these classes for my inability to listen to music solely for enjoyment. I have to either be participating in it or critiquing it.

Do you do this with your storytelling? Can you read a book or enjoy a movie without looking for aspects of the story that could have been improved?

I’ll speak for myself. I still enjoy movies and books. Since I began writing, however, I do view them differently. I look for things that I can improve in my own work. I look for techniques and trends. Mostly, I try to take off the writer hat and enjoy the experience.

It’s interesting to look to notable authors to see what they enjoy reading. It is well known that Stephen King is a fan of J.K. Rowling and her writing style.

In his New York Times review of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire King said, “The fantasy writer’s job is to conduct the willing reader from mundanity to magic. This is a feat of which only a superior imagination is capable, and Rowling possesses such equipment.”

He has also been outspoken about Stephenie Meyer and her Twilight series. King compared the Meyer author to J.K. Rowling, saying that both authors were “speaking directly to young people. The real difference is that Rowling is a terrific writer and Stephenie Meyer can’t write worth a darn. She’s not very good.”

As part of my blog, I frequently review books that I’ve read. As I go back and read them, I’m hoping that I stay true to my intent which is to review them as a fan or audience member and not as an author. I try to avoid critiquing the literary style or use of passive voice, for example. I am more focused on the story and how it moved me and how it compares to other work that I’ve read.

I’ve also tried not to review books of authors that I know personally. For one thing, Amazon seems to frown on that practice. For another, I want to stay friendly with them and I can only be honest when reviewing their work as a reader.

So, now I’d like to hear from you. What kind of audience member are you? Do you take a notebook to movies and plays and critique the work? Do you put your writing aside and enjoy it as an average audience member? Are you somewhere in between?

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