Disturbing Sensations

C., K., and I try to light old sparklers
C., K., and I try to light old sparklers

The pain sent me straight to my knees. I rolled to my side. My eyes watered.

“You want me to stop?” K. asked.

I shook my head and got back up. “It’s okay,” I said. K. and I were 14. The stud earring she’d pushed through my earlobe had gone through only one layer of skin. The little gold star jutted out and blood seeped around the post.

K. held the towel on the other side of the earlobe and pushed the stud further in. I shrieked. I heard the post break through the cartilage. K. jumped back. “Maybe we should stop.”

I shook my head unable to speak. I wiped away the tears, picked up an ice cube and touched it to my ear. Pain zipped down my neck.

She popped the stud through the back layer of skin. “You sure you want to do the other one?” she asked.

We did the other one.

All these years since then I’ve remembered how much it hurt and the sound of pierced skin. To this day I’ve no idea why I insisted on continuing.

The other day K. told me that she remembered the feeling of pushing that earring into my earlobe as if it were yesterday instead of 25 years ago. The sensation disturbed her still. How she felt had never occurred to me.

Now that I’ve sent my novel out into the world, I’ve no idea how readers will feel about it–though I hope not like they’re pushing a metal post through flesh. We tend to focus on how we feel about sending it out, but what effect will our words have on others? But we can’t predict and will be surprised by what people say.

I think I’d rather get any reaction than having the words quickly forgotten. Some novels I forget almost before I put them back on the shelf.

How do you want a reader to feel while reading your work? What do you want a reader to remember?

14 thoughts on “Disturbing Sensations

  1. You know, I never got past the “I hope they enjoy the story” stage of wondering how the reader feels. I probably need to focus on that a little better. Interesting thought process.

    1. Okay, so do you mean the process of thinking this idea through is interesting? Or that my own particular way of thinking is interesting? Or is that weird? Just my usual neurotic self asking.

      1. Yes, the idea of thinking this way — what’s the reader feeling? — never occurred to me and is interesting. Your view on it is also interesting. When I write, I think I assume the reader’s feeling what I want them to feel, but that might not be the case. I haven’t really considered my story from a feeling perspective at all, I guess, and I think the process of looking at a book that way is interesting.

        Make sense?

        I think it makes sense. I don’t know why, but I’m never sure what my readers might feel. Maybe I need to work on that.

  2. Oooh, my gosh, you’re a brave one! I could never have done the “friend pierce” thing! It was bad enough getting it done at the earring store!

    If I were a writer, I think I’d like to write things that made people thoughtful.

  3. andewallscametumblindown

    I’ve never had my ears pierced at all. Visits to the dentist are bad enough! In everyday life, I do tend to think about the way others feel – maybe too much. In my writing … I expect readers would have different feelings. I just hope that it causes them to reflect. ~Miriam

    1. No need to have your ears pierced–I just happen to love earrings. And I suggest going to a professional should you ever decide to poke a hole in yourself.

  4. Ha, great analogy — the ear-piercing story. And I like the way the writer can be either the person pushing the post through, a micro-millimeter at a time, or the person sitting in the chair and screaming. (I’m not sure which pain in the latter case is worse, though: every micro-millimeter of harsh critique and rejection, or every one of silence.) A visitor from another planet might look at the whole writer-to-reader spectrum and wonder, Why do they keep doing that to themselves?

    (Hey, just because they’ve got interstellar travel doesn’t make them geniuses in every dimension.)

    In my fiction — not necessarily in my own reading — I tend to focus on characters first, and plot second. So I guess, to answer your question, I want readers to have come to my work with the same priorities. And I’d hate for them to leave early, with those priorities unsatisfied. The trick is to keep the plot just interesting enough, soon enough, to allow the characters to set their hooks as it were.

  5. I want a reader to FEEL, period. Emotions are what make a story real, I find. And I would also like that they leave my fictional world very reluctantly, that they like it so much they want to linger and explore if it were possible. I want them to leave and want me to write a sequel. (I don’t want much, do I?)

  6. I’m with Wyrdd. I want them to feel something, even if it’s not what I intended. The emotion of a book stays longer than the story, I’ve found.

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