Does your writing get lost in translation? #amwriting

One of the curious things about writing a book, and getting feedback on your book, is the translation that occurs between the writer and the reader. As the writer, I would like to think I have the ultimate authority on what my book means…at least I always thought so.

I was discussing background information about one of the characters in the story with my father, when he interrupted me by vehemently insisting that it was not like that at all. I tried to defend my point with the argument that “I wrote the damn thing, and so I ought to know!” But a heated ‘discussion’ still ensued, until we finally both realised how ridiculous the conversation was and started to laugh.

I think I found and read the sentence that explained the point too him, but he was still adamant that it implied a different truth.

My father remains convinced that he was right!

I later talked to my husband about the ‘discussion’ I had with my father, and then he stated that neither of us were right, and something else entirely was obviously the case!!!

Which brought me to the conclusion that…

a) I am either a terrible writer, and no one can ascertain a damn thing from reading my words.

b) That particularly implied information, or even seemingly unambiguous information, is subjective, and as readers we layer over the top of it our own truths of life and so may come to completely different conclusions.

To avoid feeling depressed about my lack of writing prowess, I am going to assume b 🙂

I think particularly the words the characters say can be open to interpretation, but also their actions as well. And I have seen a few heated threads on book forums where readers thrash out opinions on what they think events or conversations in their favourite books mean.

So, has a reader ever argued with you about what happened or what something meant in your book? 🙂

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14 thoughts on “Does your writing get lost in translation? #amwriting

  1. Yes. I’ve been told many times that I don’t understand my own characters or the world I created. Keep in mind that I write fantasy, so very little is based in reality. The cultures, creatures, and places are all in my head. So I’m baffled when I’m told that I don’t get it. I wrote it and have knowledge about where it is going. Guessing the practice has to do with people being obsessed with Internet fights.

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  2. we all have our own imagination , and reading books allows us to use it so whatever we say is right -is right ,you as the author can only guide us which is your job , if you get it right we buy more books

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  3. In his excellent book ‘On Writing’, Stephen King advises leaving your first draft in a drawer once you’ve finished it, then reading through it 6 weeks later – that way, you get some distance from it and can spot possible ambiguities and other issues you may have missed at the time of writing.

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  4. There haven’t been any heated arguments, but I was surprised to learn that some of my supporting characters’ motivation wasn’t as clear as I thought it was. In a couple of cases, I liked my readers’ interpretation just as much as my own.

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  5. I’ve had this happen, and it cracked me up. The ensuing conversation was much like the one you had with your father. The reader wanted more backstory, which I couldn’t accommodate since the thing that the reader insisted happened, wasn’t in the book at all. 🙂

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  6. There’s a quote I saw on Pinterest that says “No two people ever read the same book” and I think it’s true. As you say in your point b), every reader brings a bit of himself into the book through his imagination and his life experiences so although the story in itself stays the same, I can understand that in some ways, the reader doesn’t see exactly what we wanted to show when we wrote the story. I’ve only written one book so far so haven’t had much experience so far, but I’m sure it’ll come in the future 🙂

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  7. This reminds me of the scene in the movie The Producers where the playwright, incensed that the audience is finding his pro-Hitler Broadyway musical hilarious, strides onstage (wearing his Nazi helmet) and insists that, as the author, he outranks the audience.

    No, sorry. Everybody who reads a book is entitled to their own opinion (assuming they can defend their opinion with references to the actual text, of course). Once a book is done, the author is just another reader.

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