Novels tell a story. A narrative. For a period of time, the reader is shown the world from a different viewpoint to their own.

We are exposed to others' narratives all the time. They tend to be the narratives of people we have much in common with, because those are the kinds of people we tend to spend much of our time with. We gravitate towards people similar to ourselves.

Things Fall Apart, novel by Chinua Achebe
The popularity of this novel among Africans can
be partially attributed to the fact that it told a
narrative of the Igbo people in a light that was
sympathetic to the culture, in stark contrast to
European depictions of Africa at the time.
So in that respect, art is unique. The consumer - the audience, the viewer, the reader - does not know the artist, and does not necessarily have much in common with him. Yet, the consumer experiences the artist's narrative because they are delving into his art.

Knowing that this will be the case for my own work - that is, that people who think very differently to myself will read it, and therefore be exposed to my narrative, an unfamiliar narrative - constantly reminds me of an inward battle I have when I write: 
  • I want to represent how I see the world in an honest way. I want to tell a story how I would actually tell it in person, with conclusions that are consistent with what I think to be good, right and useful.
  • Yet, I want to make something that people will enjoy, be engaged by, appreciate and learn from.
In a previous post, I talked about the idea that what people want from books dictates their perception of them. Clearly then, books do not represent every narrative in existence. There's bound to be stories out there that are destined to be forever silenced - either unwritten or unpublished - as the writer or publisher fears that not enough people would deem the narrative palatable. Not enough people would understand, or desire to understand.

A friend recently told me that I shouldn't seek to appeal to everyone. I think I do that a lot, despite the fact that I've never felt like I've truly succeeded in that pursuit. There is something deep in me that desires to be liked, admired and to remain within the confines of modern civility. But rigidly holding to these desires restricts art. It makes it superficial. If we simply massage egos when we speak, we don't learn.