Reader vs. Writer?

As most of you probably know, I frequent several author forums, and one of them featured a link to a Dear Author article the other day. The description made me curious, so I went over there and took a look. So far as I can tell, the whole thing was provoked by an author or maybe more than one getting into it with a reader/reviewer and behaving badly. Having never heard about the provoking incidents and not caring about them enough to try to track them down, I skimmed.

And then I skimmed the gazillion comments. Some of them highlight things I learned myself in the past two years the hard way and some mention things that never affected me, but one really hit home. It hit home for several of the people commenting because I saw it quoted in comments after the original one:

“Years ago I had an online conversation with the author Judith Ivory, who said that a reading experience is a product of two imaginations, the author’s and the reader’s. Different readers will bring different imaginations to the process of reading which means that responses will vary.”

I love that quote because it says eloquently something that puzzled me when I first put my books out:  Some readers see things I don’t think I put in the book. Other readers don’t see things I believe I said outright. You’d think I would have known this going in. After all, even the most popular bestseller has people who hate it. All of us have friends who hate a book we loved or vice versa. Knowing that about “books” (as in other people’s books) is one thing. Accepting it about one’s own books is something else. At first I thought, well, I didn’t make xyz clear enough. Sometime in the last two years I did accept that we all have different experiences and imaginations and so every book is different to every reader, sometimes a little and sometimes a lot.

And that’s the reason millions of people loved Scott Turow’s Presumed Innocent, and it stands out in my mind as such a tedious, terrible, boring experience it was the last book I ever forced myself to finish.





4 Responses to Reader vs. Writer?

  1. mesadallas says:

    Amen. This is true of any art form which explains why so many people look at that painting of the tomato soup can and think it uncovers the meaning of life while It just reminds me to make out the shopping list.

  2. Loveto Read says:

    This is a very insightful and fundamental point. I’ve had a few English Lit professors who really need to learn this.

  3. Welcome Loveto Read. Probably it’s less that we all need to learn it than that we all need to remember it pretty regularly. Have you ever noticed how many reviews start out, “I can’t believe so many people gave this __ stars.” What’s in the blank depends on whether that particular reader loved the story or hated it. ~Ellen

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