We’ve all read those reviews – the ones that leave us scratching our heads and saying “What book did they read? ‘Cause that wasn’t the same one I read.”
Okay, aside from the review of one of Peter’s space operas complaining about the alien invasion of earth being cliched (there are no aliens, and it’s not set on Earth, but on a space ship), usually the reviewers are actually talking about the same story. The mental furniture they use to view the world, and the emotional baggage they bring to the story, is just radically different from ours.
Sometimes this is as minor as the reader envisioning a particular character as being played by some actor, and then getting upset when a character description later contradicts this. Sometimes it’s as weird as the gigantic rant about the politics, and the rest of audience is going “The what now? It’s rayguns and antigrav sleds and chase scenes and fights?”
Sometimes it’s the reader having a lot more knowledge of a subject than the author, much less the rest of the audience… never watch CSI with a forensic investigator, war movies with soldiers, historical movies with professional costumers or historians, or flying movies with pilots. Not unless you have a lot of popcorn handy for them to throw at the screen. And you find the yelling hilarious. In fact, getting Jim Curtis, my darling man, and LawDog to watch a thriller is really hilarious as long as the rest of us start with at least two drinks….
If you’re worried that your story might turn into the latter, definitely tap a subject matter expert or two to alpha or beta read. If it’s the former? Um, I’m not sure there’s anything you can do about that, other than throw up your hands, complain about how people are crazy, and keep writing.
Or you could just not read your reviews, so the not knowing what any readers say can drive you crazy instead of the knowing that you have no clue what in the world that reviewer meant by that….
What? You thought I had an answer?
I do; it’s called having another white Russian and laughing and crying with other writers over the insanity of the universe and poking fun at ourselves and our muses and our processes.
…I didn’t say it was a helpful answer!