“The relationship between reader and writer is reciprocal in a way. We co-create each other. We are constantly emerging out of the relationship we have with others.”
Picture this: It’s eight years since your last novel. You hand your completed manuscript to your editor. Then the 2011 earthquake and tsunami hit Japan and you realize that the book you wrote doesn’t make sense anymore because it’s built around a Japanese character. So you dump half of it and reshape your novel. You include the tsunami and an entirely new and pivotal character emerges from the confusion who helps to tell your story.
That’s exactly what happened to Ruth Ozeki, whose new book, A Tale for the Time Being, (love that title!) has just been published. Says Washington Post reviewer Wendy Smith, “…Ozeki plunges us into a tantalizing narrative that brandishes mysteries to be solved and ideas to be explored.”
In A Tale for the Time Being, Ruth probes the dynamic trio of relationships that shape a story: 1) the interactions among characters; 2) the interactions of the characters and readers, and 3) the interaction between reader and writer. It’s fascinating, and surely fruitful, to keep these three sets of companions in mind as we write.
I especially like the way in which Ruth describes how a reader and a writer “co-create” each other. The idea that a writer and a reader summon each other into being and build a world together is so rich, isn’t it? And here’s something else that Ruth said in a New York Times story called “What the Tide Brought In,” that’s given me something to think about: “For a writer, you definitely do not want to be in the mainstream. You want to be on the edge because that’s where the vantage point is. That’s where you can see.”
So often, writers I’ve talked to bemoan their “outsider” status. But, along with Ruth, I think it’s this very perspective that gives us the freedom to see things differently and more deeply. Being “on the edge” — that’s where we need to be to write dangerously. To see into the heart of things, we need to stand outside the mystery. What do you think? I’d love to hear from you. Write on!