Trust is an essential human ability in our world.
Is our trust earned? Perhaps. But I wager that our trust is more implicit than not.
Think about it. Trust occurs every day in our society. When you get on a public bus, you’re placing trust in that driver to get you to your destination safely, to not deviate from the correct path, and to behave to a certain standard.
You trust your neighbors to be upstanding citizens and not violate your privacy. You trust other drivers on the road to adhere (mainly) to the rules of the road. You trust leaders to follow the rules.
Why do we put so much trust in others? Because there are consequences for not following the “rules.”
It’s the same in the scientific community; we trust those performing experiments and scientists with years of experience because there are rules governing the scientific community. Is this trust one-sided? Maybe.
This past week was an article discussing how curious it is that we (homo sapiens) are the only human species currently walking this earth. Prompted by the recent discovery of a “new” human species, this article brings up the interesting topic that in the past there were several species of humans walking the earth at one time.
Part of what led to the extinction of some of these species was competition. While the two (or more) human species might have had trust in each other, they ultimately became each other’s competition when faced with limited food supply (plants). If these species trusted the other, it might well have been to their demise, and it was probably one-sided.
Depending upon whom you talk to, the scientific community can or cannot be trusted. An extreme conservative may tell you that scientists can never be trusted, that they lie to fit their agenda (usually contrary to those thinking them liars), while someone on the other side of the fence will believe those same scientists and everything they say. But it doesn’t stop at conservatism or liberalism; some people blindly believe those in authority or those who have done the work or will believe that anyone arrested for a crime must be guilty of that crime. Some will trust a certain type of person implicitly–until proven otherwise.
But okay, what does that have to do with writing?
Well, maybe not much. Except, everything.
Writing a book is an exercise in one-sided trust.
Authors pour their hearts out into their books and into their characters. We are forced to trust those characters to act to their natures. Yes, they may surprise us at times, but they must be true to their characters. If they surprise us, it’s because we don’t know them as well as we thought we did.
Trusting our characters is something we must come to terms with. We trust them with our stories–we trust them to not live quiet lives.
But where does trust come into play with our readers?
Readers put an extraordinary amount of trust into us as authors. They entrust us with hours of their leisure times in the hope of a rewarding resolution to the story we’ve created. They enjoy or hate our characters (hopefully as we intend them to) for hours of reading, and perhaps hours longer after they have finished reading. They trust, not only us the author, but the narrator of the novel.
Perhaps they shouldn’t. For trust should be earned, on some level. But like us driving down the road trusting other drivers to stay in the two lanes of traffic we are allotted, if you drive around long enough, there will be another driver that violates our trust. Just like us, every reader will trust a narrator unless proven otherwise.
Don’t give a reader a chance to doubt your character–unless you want them to.