Ek’abo Ebi! (Welcome Family!)
I’ve been told on more than one occasion, that when you write a book you should try to make it universal; something that most people can connect to in some way, shape or form. A number of things can make that difficult. If you are not a veteran writer, sometimes finding the right words to express a thought, portray a scene or even connect with a reader can prove problematic.
This can also be the case when you write outside the norm. As you are aware, my book Amachi’s Hope is influenced by West African culture. Throughout my story, the reader will come across a number of names, terms, and deities that are not apart of the English language or American culture. For that reason, I have included a glossary of terms at the end of the book. But what if the reader is not the type who would be inclined to “flip to the back” and find out what a word means. Where does that leave you? Do you go out of your way to make things easier for the reader? Or do you say, “Forget that! I’ve put too much work into this to start again.”
Another issue that has come up is my use of West African names for the characters in my book. As I mentioned before, this story is affected by West African culture (Yoruba in particular). Someone told me that “the names are too much to remember.” Why would I use everyday names for my characters? My book is based in Africa, during a time past, when gods ruled and magic still existed. The use of names like: Michael, Angela or Jordan, do not apply. J How often are authors approached about changing the names in a story because it has too many syllables or it doesn’t fit the status quo? Frustrating…
I do not want to lose a reader/follower because they are confused or impatient when the definition of a word is not immediately available. But does that mean that I change my story into something I don’t want? Something I would not be proud to put my name on?
One of my favorite authors, Colin Channer, of Waiting in Vain and other exceptional pieces of literature, is a Jamaican who writes from a Jamaican perspective. He uses patois (a Jamaican dialect) in his books. And he makes references to terms, foods and vernacular that only someone from the West Indies would appreciate and/or understand. As someone who was raised in a West Indian household, I found that I could relate to the characters and I understood the terms used throughout the book. But I also realized that regardless of the language used in the book, readers were still able to connect with the characters in the story and their experiences. Universal… I get it.
Readers, like me, can be fickle. There are times when we want light reading. Something funny, sexy, or outrageous. Then there are times when we want to read a book with punch; a book that sends a message or shares a moving experience. There are books for adults, books for teenagers and books for young children. There are hard covers, paperbacks and e-books. There is so much to choose from that it is more important than ever to reach your audience and hold them.
So I am faced with a new challenge. How do you connect with your readers while holding on to your story’s objective? How much are you willing to lose to get the attention of the right reader, agent or publisher? These are definitely points to ponder.
Mari e laipe!
See you soon!
Thanks for visiting ‘Amachi is Hope.’ If you were inspired or felt a connection with today’s blog (or any of my previous entries) please leave a comment. J