Nothing puts the writing game in perspective like reading the GoodReads progress updates for a book I love. A book I think is plotted with ruthless, ineluctable pacing (“Gee, this is slow and boring”) or a book I think is instantly arresting and seats you immediately in the world (“I have no idea what is happening”) or a book I think has a magnificent cast of fantastically enthralling characters (“I don’t like anyone in this book and I don’t care”).
No matter what you do, someone’s always going to dislike it. However universal your tropes, they’re not going to work for someone. However much you sweat over the phrasing of a sentence, it’s going to confuse someone. And whatever you call your character, someone’s going to think it’s stupid, or it reminds them of an ex they hate.
Vladimir Nabokov said: “I don’t think that an artist should bother about his audience. His best audience is the person he sees in his shaving mirror every morning. I think that the audience an artist imagines, when he imagines that kind of a thing, is a room filled with people wearing his own mask.”
All you can really do is write the most amazing book for you, and hope that there are enough other people out there who like the things you do to make it worthwhile. Because if you try to write something that will appeal to “everyone”, you’re going to fail anyway.
I like to remind myself of that when my fits of self-indulgent delight tip over into, “Oh god, no one else is ever going to like this.”
Maybe they will.