Saturday, 26 January 2013

I am the puppet master

There's one thing I really like about being a writer. I get to be a master manipulator.

I know what you're thinking. It's all about the characters. He gets to choose which ones live or die. He gets to decide which ones have happy endings and which ones don't. He has complete control over every aspect of their lives.

Well that's all true, and it is rather good. But it's not exactly what I had in mind. When I was talking about manipulating people, I meant you out there - all you readers.

To me, a big part of engaging with an audience is making a direct connection with their emotions. Their are times when I try to make them happy - times when I want to make them laugh. And other times when I want them to feel sad. Basically, I'm trying to pull their strings, to control how they feel. And the best thing is when you get feedback from a reader that confirms you've been able to achieve what you planned.

There's a funny kind of flip side to this though. You start to become more aware of when other writers are doing it to you. Sometimes you don't mind, and you just give into it - that's part of the joy in being a reader or a viewer. But other times I've rebelled, and I've said flat out "I know what you're trying to do and I'm not going to be your puppet."

The first time I really remember it happening was watching the movie Forrest Gump. I sat through it, feeling that the whole thing was incredibly contrived, and I could really feel the emotional manipulation it was attempting. Needless to say, I've hated the movie ever since.

So, the next time you're reading a book, or watching a movie, think about us writers, sitting in the back with our hands pulling on the strings. Yes, that's us, hidden away in the shadows, with the crafty smiles on our faces. More powerful than you ever could imagine - we are the puppet masters.


  1. This reminds me of a poem I wrote a while back:

          Touching Poem

          You are being manipulated.
          It’s all right because I know exactly
          what I‘m doing. I’ve done this before.

          Manipulation’s not a bad thing.
          It’s just handling which is simply
          another word for touching. Sort of.

          Touching can sometimes lead to holding.
          I’m holding you now. Can’t you feel me?
          I have your attention. Just stay still.

          We wouldn’t want me to slip, would we?
          Human psyches are such fragile things.

          Saturday, 06 February 2010

    Like you I’m acutely aware of writers’ agendas. I’d like to think I try and share the workload more than most allowing them to contribute to the creative process but maybe I’m kidding myself. To be honest I don’t really think about readers when I write. I write what pleases me and people can like it or lump it. I think that’s the closest any of us can get to not trying to manipulate our readers.

    1. Hi Jim,

      Love the poem.

      Like you, I write primarily for my own enjoyment - does that make me a self-manipulator?

  2. I had never considered this before but I will now thanks for a different perspective, I once told my sister that it sorta felt like my characters sat on my shoulder and wrote themselves haha, but this last book felt more like it evolved as I wrote I ended up killing off a character I had not originally intended to kill and realized it well after I was too far ahead to bring him back lol it was a good thing I didn't want to revive him I think.

    1. Hi Kristy,

      As long as he doesn't stay on your shoulder after he's dead - that would be icky.