A Matter of Trust

Here's something that 's been worrying me a bit - and I have a feeling it's hard to sense this about your own writing. It's something other writers have spoken about - here, for example. Suppose you, the writer, have a particular direction or goal for your story, and you think you've made it quite clear. There are (you think) large signposts everywhere, saying things like: "Warning: This story will be sad. Do not read further if you don't want sad."  Then you hear from a reader who says: "Why was that story so sad? I thought there was going to be a happy ending?" And all you can say is, "You did? Oh, I'm so sorry! I didn't mean to disappoint you."

But, of course, you have disappointed that reader. When they picked up your book and decided to keep reading it, they had certain expectations of the story. Those expectations were based on what they'd experienced as they began to read. If you set up a particular set of expectations, and then fail to fulfill them, readers will naturally feel cheated. They may even be angry at you - so angry that they may decide never to read anything else you write. Eep!

This worries me because HONOR is YA SF, and, as such, it fits (for most readers) in the adventure/save the world mold. But it is not a standard adventure. I can easily imagine readers who've loved the latest dystopian being very frustrated with HONOR because "nothing happens" or "there's not enough action". I do think I give fair warning about the sort of book it is - and I also know that, no matter how carefully we try to craft stories, they will fail with some readers, through no fault of ours or theirs. People just want and enjoy different things. 

That said, I never want to break a reader's trust. As I go forward on my writing journey, I want to give joy to those who may choose to come with me. And I think maybe the hardest thing for a new writer to perceive is what, exactly, they are promising their readers in their opening pages.

What do you think? Have you ever been disappointed in a story, and, if you do any sort of creative work, do you think  you've ever broken your audience's trust? If you did, how did you get back on track?