Wednesday, November 4, 2015

A Matter of Perception

by Janis Susan May/Janis Patterson

The cold season is starting to set in. In my part of the country that means the temps are dropping into the 50s and 60s during the night and the 60s and 70s during the day. Love it! I know that later on we will probably have some ice and maybe a day or two’s worth of snow, but that’s all. We will have some cold weather, just enough so I can enjoy wearing my furs, and that will be refreshing after a summer of the sky constantly being on ‘broil.’

Still, that’s what we’re used to and we live with it. I think it’s all just what we get used to. In September The Husband and I went to Massachusetts to attend a friend’s wedding. It was beautiful even though the leaves had not yet started to turn. The temperatures were ideal. I rhapsodized about them, enjoying them and telling our friend that they were just perfect, as we had left temperatures still hovering around 100 at home. He laughed and agreed, but then said that for most of the winter there would be real cold and lots of snow – like he had 8 feet in his yard last winter.

Eight feet! That’s as tall as our ceilings at home. No, thank you. I cannot see how anyone could exist in such conditions, let alone choose to stay in them. But that’s just me… our friend and his new bride just love it there, so I wish them and anyone who else who likes it joy. Just don’t expect me to come visiting during the winter!

On the other hand, when The Husband and I were in Egypt in January of 2010, I was startled to see coats and sweaters and boots that looked like Arctic gear in a number of Cairo shops. I was even more startled when, later that same trip we were in the Valley of the Kings – half the country south of Cairo. I was wearing a short sleeve polo shirt, lightweight jeans, hiking boots, a sun hat and one of those sleeveless, multi-pocketed photographer’s vests – open, I might add. It was a very comfortable outfit and I was only sweating a little bit. I walked around a corner and literally bumped into a local man.

We stared at each other and I don’t know which of us was the more startled. He had on heavy jeans, boots, a shirt, a sweater and over all that a fur-trimmed parka. He was not sweating. Neither of us said anything, just kept staring as if at some strange alien species while we circled around each other enough to continue on our individual ways.

The point of this little weather report is that it all comes down to perception, and perception controls our writing. Whatever we write – sweet romance, erotica, mysteries, horror, whatever – there are some who are going to say ‘Ooh, how can you write that stuff?’ or ‘It’s all I ever read.’ What is important is not so much what genre you write, but which readers you reach. No one kind of book is going to please all readers, just like no one climate is going to please everyone. To try is kind of foolish, don’t you think?

Genre-bending is regarded by some as a way to try and reach more readers. Maybe it is, but if trying to expand your readership is the only reason you have a cowboy in a space ship having a romance with an alien fairy your story is going to be forced and flat. If having that cowboy in a space ship having a romance with an alien fairy is your story, the essence of why your story exists, go for it.

And that’s the important thing – the integrity of your story. One of the constants is that no story is going to be liked/read by everyone. You cannot please everyone, so you should only be concerned with being true to your story. Metaphorically, snow or sun, ocean or mountains, your story should be your prime concern. Write your story and let the readers come – don’t chase them. 


  1. Great entry. Yes, perception definitely controls how we feel about something, whether it's the weather or our books. I'm from the Gulf Coast and when I first married followed my Air Force husband to Germany, where the scenery was breathtaking but the temperatures were hard on me.. Brrrr. I don't think I ever learned to breathe right over there. I longed for my over-hot summers!

  2. An excellent reminder of what makes authentic writing. Thanks, Janis Susan!

  3. hmm...definitely something to think about with my own writing.
    Good luck and God's blessings.

  4. Love this post, Janis. I agree that a writer's first responsibility is being true to his/her story. Also agree that we all perceive things differently. Love that we do. It's one of the joys of writing - and reading.