Insensitivity Readers

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There’s a great concept I hope most authors have heard of – the sensitivity reader.  Someone who can help bring to light places you’re insensitive to people, suggest ways to better portray people not like yourself, and so on.  My own experiences have taught me how important that was (co-writing a book about Sailor Moon and being the only man involved was educational).

But I’d also like to suggest you may need Insensitivity Readers – people who will call you on your own bullshit and who don’t think like you do.

I found this out while working on “A Bridge To The Quiet Planet,” where some of the best feedback were people calling me on certain takes, stylistic choices, etc.  The contribution was invaluable.

I think there are times that we accept certain stylistic choices, writing patterns, and so on because other people do them.  I’ve noticed that if you have a kind of Pratchett/Adams take, people will sort of accept it’s good.  I’ve also noticed people will accept certain overembellished styles if they’re a bit winking at themselves – kind of retro-Victorian bodice ripper styles.  You get the idea.

There are also concepts people just accept, tropes and archetypes.  We just accept them.

So someone has to tell you – your choices may suck.  Some people need to be your Insensitivity Readers.

This is a difficult thing to deal with, as I found.  Sometimes your beloved ideas kinda may not work.  Sometimes you didn’t so much fail, but didn’t reach.

So someone calls you on it.

In my case, the person who called me on some stylistic choices, who was unimpressed with the way I did certain things, made my novel a hell of a lot better.

Sometimes you need sensitivity.

Sometimes you don’t.

Steven Savage