I get emails. Great emails. I respond to them all (I should say I strive to, in case I accidentally missed yours), though it often takes me some time to get to them.
I got a bunch of great emails in the last couple weeks that put me in a good mood this morning. One of them included a question that I thought would be of interest to a lot of my readers.
Here goes, courtesy of Anissa:
Did you consciously choose to have Ben never mention being physically attracted to Rafe?
I’ve gone through the book (HONESTLY BEN) for the second time and it stuck out to me that while Ben goes into extensive detail about what he finds physically attractive about Hannah, he never mentions how he feels about Rafe’s physical characteristics or appeal. He only says Rafe is very fit.
Did you intentionally structure it so that Ben focused solely on their emotional connection?
It seems odd to me since they were physically involved. I wondered if it was another way for Ben to buffer himself from the realization that he was attracted to a boy.
Great question! This is what I wrote back:
A lot of times, what comes out on the page is instinctual for me. Meaning that I sit in the chair of the character and I look for their truth. The only way I can answer your very smart question is to say that I think the amount of time Ben spends thinking about Rafe physically is authentic for him. It may be a sort of buffer as he is not fully comfortable being attracted to a boy, and it might be that he’s attracted to Rafe in a more holistic way. My gut feeling is that it’s a combination of both.
This question made me think, even after I sent that answer. How does that work? How do we, as writers, pull off not just sitting in the chair of a character, but getting into that subconscious place where we make the right decisions for them? Because I believe to my innermost self that had I had Ben wax poetic about Rafe’s legs, it would have been inauthentic. And I don’t fully know why, as I say above. I just know, instinctually, that it’s not right. For me as a writer. Which is only half the equation!
And this is why books are alive. Because a reader’s understanding of a book’s truth is actually just as alive, just as important, as the writer’s intention in writing it. I think.
I mean, if a reader decides that Ben is buffering himself from his true feelings for Rafe’s physicality, who am I to say that’s wrong?
Thoughts? Why doesn’t Ben focus on Rafe’s body? What’s your understanding, from your reading? Does it differ from my explanation?