I love reading, and if a book grabs my attention I dive straight in. Since writing books myself I do tend to look at the structure of a book differently. I like to take something away from the outlay or plot, and jot down for future use on my own. It is very rare for me to think a writer could have written anything differently, especially in a fiction novel. It is after all, a work of fiction – not fact. So, anything a writer has jotted down is simply from their imagination.
Recently I have read reviews of several books by other authors and to be honest, I cringe. Some folk are downright cruel in their ‘critique’ of a book, and how the author must hurt. I accept that some readers are not going to like my work and will express their views. They are entitled to do so, and although it tweaks at my sensitive nerve, I accept their right to say their piece and would never challenge or comment. However, I have been tempted to explain something to a recent reviewer on a prominent book site. She commented on how I came about the name, Jack the Ripper, in my novel, Ripper, My Love. She states that Jack is linked with John and not James as I have used in the book, and that Jim is the nickname for James, (she emphasised the point in capital letters).
Definitely a different telling of Jack the Ripper but the names of the characters (how Jack the Ripper got his name) really bugs me. Jack is a nickname for John, whereas JIM is the nickname for James.
Now this is where my fingers itch against the reply button. Firstly, it is a work of fiction. As a writer I am entitled to call my characters what I want, and nickname them as I wish. I did not write a history book, and as Jack the Ripper is an invented name in reality, who is to say I am not right after all?
Secondly, I state in the book that, Jack, is an affectionate name given to the character by his parents, so it is his name.
Thirdly, my character’s name is a tribute to my father-in-law, James. He was born, James Smy and instantly nicknamed, Jack. All his life he was referred to as, Jack, not Jim. I also know another James whose father is James, and instead of James Junior, my friend is known as, Jack.
So, has the reader read into my novel a little too literally? It is a shame when a name has altered her perception of the whole book, when it is only a story derived from my twisted imagination. Being a coward, I will not hit the reply button and explain away my name Jack and how it came about, I fear it would lead to a discussion I do not have time for at the moment. Also, as a writer of fiction, I do not have to justify my creations. Or do I? Do you think differently?