Appearances Matter (From my Goodreads Q&A)

One of the most important aspects of the novel is the notion (reality) that people have a public image that is different from the private self. In the book I don’t elaborate on the circumstances surrounding how Evan Meade got custody of Oliver because those circumstances don’t really matter. He did. And he shouldn’t have. The first is in the past, the onus of the showing why it was wrong falls to the book through character development.

The reason I chose not to explain the custody in greater detail was to illustrate what I believe to be the ludicrous notion that judges make decisions everyday about kids and custody knowing full well that the testimony they hear is tainted with these two sides of a person’s identity. This book, as in real life, attempts to dole out bits of their personality slowly and relies upon the intuition of the reader to fill in some of the blanks themselves just in how the characters behave. That is precisely, I feel, how real life works. Nothing is given to us on a platter. We intuit people, we watch and listen and read between the lines to learn who they really are. To do or expect something different in this story would be to not reflect real life.

The question of how much an author must fill in for the reader so as not to make character development a hardship on them is one of the most difficult aspects of writing a novel. You worry that what you omit will leave the characters not fully developed and the reader then not fully satisfied. But the flip side of omission is inclusion and adding more to the story than is needed means there is nothing then for the reader to contemplate on their own, to think through and work out, to discover, which, I believe, is the true pleasure and purpose of reading.

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