Readers’ perception

I just joined the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. The members post every first Wednesday of the month, so this is my first post for them.

When a reader opens a book, in many cases he doesn’t see what the author envisioned when she wrote her story. He sees his own interpretation of the book through the lens of his personality. He filters the story through his own life experience. Sometimes the reader’s and writer’s versions are almost the same. Other times, they’re vastly different.

I recently had a review of my novel which really surprised me. It wasn’t a bad review, far from it. It was a nice review, but the reviewer mentioned a fact that made me open my mouth in surprise. What? Have I written it so badly that she didn’t see the main point of the novel? Did she even read it before writing her review?

Some writers engage in disputes with readers over the unwanted reviews or fling accusations around. I think it’s a pointless practice. But I ask myself: what should I do so the readers see the book the way I see it? Is it even possible?

There is a well-known axiom among writers: you can’t please everyone. I’d take it one step further: you can’t deliver the same version of your book to everyone, even though the words and grammar are exactly the same. People are bound to see it differently, to read different revelations into it. Every man and woman, when they open a book, are on a quest for a mysterious artifact, but no one searches for the same object or the same emotion.

IWSGSome try to find absolution. Others strive to prove their own worth. Still others long for a spiritual guidance or just want an escape from life worries. And the more people manage to achieve their goals through my book, the better writer I am, no matter what they perceive in my writing. I wish all my readers luck in their search.

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11 Responses to Readers’ perception

  1. I’ve recently been mulling on this exact topic. I really don’t think we can make readers ‘see’ our stories the same way. When you say, ‘a cat sat on the mat’, everyone will envision a different cat and a different mat. As long as they get soemthing from our stories, it’s all good.
    Welcome to the IWSG!

  2. I had the same reaction on my very first review. I didn’t know the author personally, though, asked her for an honest review. She had the story-line sooo wrong that I wondered if she even read the book. We cannot control who writes a review and what they say. I’ve learned to roll with the punches.

  3. Forgot to say Hello, Olga. Nice to meet you!

  4. Olga Godim says:

    Nice to meet you, Cathrina.

  5. Hi Olga, nice to meet you.
    I think whenever a reader takes something ‘good’ from what I’ve written, I’ve served my purpose. It may not be exactly or even remotely close to what I intended, but they they felt fulfilled I’m happy.

  6. Olga Godim says:

    Yes, Far Away Eyes, I agree.

  7. Can’t deliver the same version. So true! I’ve had that happen. It’s like music. It moves people differently.
    Welcome to the IWSG!
    Thanks for offering to help with co-hosting. I was overwhelmed for April, but I will need four-five more every month, so more opportunities coming. (And it’s a lot of fun to be on the host side.)

  8. Olga, I had to chuckle when I read your good luck wish to your readers. Very nice. I understand what you mean. And I think Stephen King made peace with that when he said, “there is no monster more terrifying than that in the mind of the reader.” Inference is the key. It invites self interpretation which will be of more value and appreciation to every individual reader. Write on!

  9. Liz Blocker says:

    Yup, you’re so right. It might be really surprising for us writers, but I do think it’s sort of wonderful that readers can have such amazingly different experiences when reading. Of course, we want people to understand our intentions, but if they took something else from the book, that’s a great thing, too 🙂

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