Writerly Rant #82 ~
By M.J. Moores, Author. Editor.
It frustrates me to no end the way so many debut authors get upset that a reader has “misunderstood” their work or has “read it wrong.”
How can an individual who knows nothing about you read your book the exact same way that you do?
We are called individuals for a reason. Each reader has their own set of baggage, rewards, disappointments, education level… no two people are exactly alike – just look at the studies done on identical twins!
It constantly baffles me how an author can expect that a turn of phrase or a series of inferences placed in their novel should be read exactly as he/she “intended” when it was written.
And they get their back up when I try to politely point this out.
“That’s not what I said!”
“That’s not what I meant!”
“You’re reading it wrong!”
“You don’t understand…”
Perhaps, perhaps not.
So who’s fault is it then that I didn’t read it exactly the way you wanted me to? That I don’t carry the exact same experiences around inside of me that you do… does that mean I’m not allow to read and enjoy your novel? That I’m not allowed to take away from it a different connection or a different message than you originally intended?
Honesty, either you train yourself to write like Hemingway and lose the vast number of indirect references in your work, speaking plainly and simply (definitely not a style for all writers or readers) or you realize that the world is bigger than just you and your ideas and learn to accept that other people are not going to read your book in exactly the same way… even though your words don’t change.
In the end whose story is it… the author’s or the readers?
… I’d say it’s neither’s – it belongs to the world of interpretation.
(…waiting for the hail of WTF to flood the comment section from the very authors I’m writing about…)
Categories: Rants, Writerly Rants
We react to all of life’s experiences from the framework of our own lives and experiences. How can our reactions to what we read be any different? Well said.
It’s a level of commonsense that some debut writers (and some head-in-the-sand writers) have a hard time coming to terms with. This week has just been a particularly trying on for me as an editor 😉
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I completely agree – it’s all about the interpretation. I find such reactions odd because I love to hear how different people interpret my work – no two opinions are exactly the same. It truly is one of the best parts; each scene, each line, each chapter of the novel – our readers take something unique away. As a writer you can’t tell readers to feel sad at this particular part, or feel fear because this particular thing happens – all you can do is tell a story 🙂
Agreed 😀 But for the authors who find this notion a “challenge” to say the least, they are often so invested in the book, its themes and deeper meaning that they don’t allow themselves to see the beauty that not every snowflake is exactly alike.
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That makes sense to me. People see things through their own individual prisms. It’s why writing for a “broad audience” is sort of chancy.
It should be part of the richness of writing, to have that discussion with a reader to find out what they read, what they thought, how they reacted. An author who receives feedback should consider themselves lucky, not argue the toss!