Thursday, January 10, 2008

Are Some Writers Too Good For Their Readers?

Do you think some writers (maybe including yourself) and their works are too good for their readers? Too complex? Too deep? Too layered? Too open for interpretation?

This is an opposite phenomenon to the one where the readers find hidden meanings/layers of which the writer wasn't even aware.


I'm asking because I recently had a discussion with some people about a book and it seems to me a lot of people who have read it missed many of the layers and complexities the writer put into the story. No, I am not talking about obscure symbolism or hidden messages or even themes. I'm talking about subtexts, things being said without saying, character complexity, even narrative structures, etc. It seems to me, from the discussion, that a lot of the readers either didn't pay attention (the writers clearly put the information in there), or they chose to believe certain things despite what the writer wrote -- meaning, they've already made up their minds from the get-go.

Through the discussion, I got a little impatient and frustrated, muttering to myself on some occasions: "Why, aren't you just dim? It is so much deeper than that." I know, I know. It's not very nice, but I honestly am baffled that some people seem to have just skimped the surface and not really gotten the true meaning of the story, which isn't really "hidden." The writer was very clear about it -- I can even quote passages that the writer specifically wrote -- but some people may have ignored or missed them?

And when I mentioned them, these people snapped back and said, "I read the book, too. And that's how I interpreted it. So there." To which I started to say, "Well, apparently the writer is too good for you."

Or is it the writer's fault? That the writer didn't effectively communicate? That not enough time or effort are spent on explaining certain things? That the writer relied too much on the readers' intelligence to "get it"? Or is it just a matter of reading comprehension? Some people get all the details and think about what they read, and some simply skimp/quick-read to get the gist of the story?

I certainly have come across my own readers who, while appreciated my book, didn't exactly get everything. I didn't really mind, but at the same time found it interesting that they would have missed certain things. And I would start to question: What did I do wrong? Was I not clear enough?

So, when you write, what kind of readers do you write for? And how do you manage to communicate what you want, effectively, to those readers?

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