This past weekend, I had the second chapter of “The Land Without Mosquitos” (drafted and revised on this blog as a short story, but now being expanded into a novel) reviewed by a peer group of aspiring writers. Couldn’t have asked for a better response; my readers found the story confusing, but felt invested in Jane, the central character.
That’s exactly the response I was hoping to elicit, as the story has a bizzare premise, and I wanted the reader to share in Jane’s confusion as she gradually realizes she’s been suddenly transported into an alternate reality, very similar to the one she remembers but with some significant technological differences.
It’s dangerous, of course, to confuse your readers, as they could easily respond with annoyance (what the hell is going on?) and decide to stop reading. Jane has to capture my readers’ interest, and they have to care about her struggle to make sense out of what’s happened to her. My readers this weekend wanted to know what happens to Jane next; those were very gratifying words to hear, and I intend to submit future chapters to this group (which also, I might add, features a number of writers whose work I admire).
The chapter wasn’t perfect — a frequent observation was that Gary, Jane’s boss and one of the key supporting characters, was too much of a pushover (“he needs a spine,” according to one reviewer; I have my team of fictional surgeons working on him as I type these words). But I am far more encouraged than discouraged by the responses I received over the weekend.