This is the WASTED BLOG. For my main author website, click this link.

Awards: WASTED won the Read it or Else category in the Coventry Award and was runner-up in the North East Book Award. It is longlisted for the Carnegie Medal and shortlisted for the Manchester, Grampian, Angus, and RED Awards.

Friday, 4 June 2010


There's something funny going on when people read Wasted. I have lost count of the number of people who, in reviews or comments, have said something about the reader having control, or the reader getting to choose an outcome or path.

Now, don't get me wrong: I'm NOT cross or criticizing them but in fact they are! There are two reasons why I want to point this out and talk a little about it.
  1. It may make people who haven't read it think it's going to be like one of those "quest" books from the 1990s, where the reader could choose different paths. Anyone who has read Wasted knows that nothing could be further from the truth. I tell the story and the reader has no choice at all until the end (and I'll come to what sort of a "choice" that is in a minute.)
  2. I find it interesting that some readers subconsciously feel in control when they are not, and I want to think about why that might be.
I think that's because the unique narrator / narrative voice in Wasted allows the reader to see what it (the narrator) sees. So, in a way that you don't often find, the reader is fully aware of everything, looking down on the characters from exactly the same viewpoint as the godlike narrator.

So, because you assume that the narrator (or author) is in control, you assume that the reader also is.

But no, the reader has no control. In fact, the narrator doesn't have much either. The narrator simply directs you as to what to see, but is entirely at the mercy of what happens. The narrator is little more than photographer and wise spectator combined.

So, what about the "choice" that the reader is supposed to have at the end? Some people have called this a choice of endings. No, you have no choice of endings! You have only one choice: whether to toss the coin and follow it to the ending that it gives you, or to refuse to toss the coin and just read both endings. (Of course, I fully expect that even if you do toss the coin, you will read both endings...).

And it's this funny thing about choice, too: do we really have choice? (I believe we do, but it's hard to explain and prove.) When you chose to toss the coin or not, was that really your choice or have I influenced you and primed you so much that, when combined with either your natural curiousity or your natural refusal to do what you're told, you really have no choice at all? Is an author really more godlike than you suppose? Have I manipulated you into believing that it makes any difference at all whether you spin the coin or not, so that you either decide you must or that you mustn't?

DOES it make any difference at all whether you spin the coin or not?

Why is it that we can KNOW that an author is making a story up and yet believe in the characters and their situation so fully that we seem to believe and feel their pain? So fully that we even have to consider whether spinning a coin is the right thing to do to find out what happens to them?

DOES it make any difference at all whether you read Wasted or not? Will it make you think differently? Will that be a good thing or not? 

But then, you know, every book changes you. Everything you hear or read or see or think changes you. In ways you can't predict or control.

Which is what Wasted is, essentially, about. Probably the only choice you have is whether to read it or not - after that, you are putty in my hands! Yay for author power! That's why I write: I'm power-crazy...


Julie Day said...

I don't know if we have a choice but to some extent I believe that what we get out of life is what we put in it. Eg luck is what we make of it.

Mary@GigglesandGuns said...

Must confess--if there's multiple endings I read them all. Part of it is 'the what if factor' and the other is I'm nosy and don't want to miss anything.
If your readers believe they influence the ending, how great that is for you. You have succeeded! You have taken them to another place and they loved it.
Of course this post of yours means when I run errands today I HAVE to pick up Wasted to read this weekend.

catdownunder said...

Cats do not flip coins. For me the book ended on p 274. The last two chapters are mere speculation.
In real life the scenario is more likely to be heads than tails and humans need to live with that - cats too.
Is that a pessimistic view of life - or a purrsmitic one? I don't know...blame my Scottish Presbyterian ancestors? Purrhaps.
It is probably wise to read both endings - and then consider what you can do to make the world a better place.

Catherine Hughes said...

what was interesting in our house is that I got one ending (yes, I read both) and daughter got the other. So for each of us, Wasted was a very different book but we both loved it.

How cool is that?

Anonymous said...

I flipped the coin, read the chapter (and then read the other - just couldn't resist)

Glynis Peters said...

I had no choice but to finish your book. Then finish it kills.

I have reviewed it on my blog, but cannot get across how much I loved it.

Congratulations on an amazing read. I admire your imagination, and envy your skill.