I recently finished listening to Lord of the Flies by William Golding. Amazingly, I made it through my early education and never read it. I know. I know. Close your mouth.
At the end of the audio, narrated by Golding, he talked briefly about the seeds of the story. And he talked more briefly about the interpretation of the story. He said, “The only interpretation that matters is yours, the readers….The readers experience of being in the story, moving through it is the most important. What’s in a book is not what an author thought he puts in, but what the reader gets out of it.”
It is not a new idea. In fact, yesterday writerjenn posted a link to a Shrinking Violet article, prompting people to listen to Libba Bray’s 2010 Prinz Award Speech. During the speech, Bray says the reader owns the story, its interpretation. Nonetheless, it is an idea that I think gets lost when I am wrestling with my thoughts, trying to capture them on paper. Yes, intellectually I know, life experiences shape a person’s interpretations. Yes, intellectually, I know that readers will find crooks and corners in my story. And in those dark places are ghosts and shadows I’ve never met. How could I? They aren’t my shadows or ghosts. Yet, it does not stop me from feeling surprise when my betas and critiquers have different insights and reactions to my story.
So I guess this is a reminder to me (and you).
One day when an interviewer asks me to discuss the various interpretations of my story, I will pull a Golding. After all, it’s about the characters, their story. It’s not about me. It’s about the reader’s experience. Not about my experience. (To be honest, very few things in life are about me (or you). I know. I know. Truth is a nasty little devil. J)
OH! One more reminder...If you live in the U.S.A. get off your fanny and go vote!