Sunday, August 25, 2013

Not What I Meant When I Wrote That, But Okay...We Can Go There

Remember in English class when the teacher made you dissect a poem or story, teasing it apart word by word, digging deeply into the piece to truly understand where the author was coming from?

As a youngster, I saw my teacher as all knowing, thinking that the smart educators could see inside the minds of authors. I was the novice, eager to learn how to become so wise as to speak the language of authors.

Then I matured. In college, teachers told students to come up with an interpretation of the piece. We didn't have to find a consensus. In a class of twenty, it was okay to have twenty answers. At first the thrill was being unique, showing I possessed an intelligence wise enough to see the world differently. We were all about being different when I was in college. Anything outside the mold was cool.

But in my search for the best interpretation of a piece, I began to wonder what the author would think about us and all our presumptions of what went through his mind as he penned his stories. Then I started seeing the exercise as pure crap, no longer fun. It was a game as to who could BS the best and make it sound savvy and smart on paper.

The author wrote what he thought at a point in his life. It's really that simple. He didn't ponder how many ways he could be understood. He didn't write his story to be picked apart into twenty different expositions. I wasn't sure authors like being placed under a microscope and diagnosed. I wanted to read the story to be entertained and enlightened. How the author achieved that end with me was between us. I didn't care what he meant, and he probably couldn't care less how I read it. Just as long as we both enjoyed our journey.

So . . . imagine how I reacted when I made appearances and people started dissecting my mysteries? Someone mentioned how the store keeper was a suspected nemesis of the antagonist. Oh my goodness, I never thought of that once as I wrote and edited that chapter. Readers told me their suspicions that never crossed my mind in the book's creation. But I saw one thing...readers had fun trying to identify the red herrings from the real clues. And as they explained their interpretations of what I meant, I smiled, wishing I'd thought of that. Maybe I had, subconsciously. Who knew?

I believe I've matured yet again, with a new understanding of the art of storytelling. It's not how exact we are in the understanding of an author's delivery. It's the fact the author gave us a tool to make us think. The more we feel the need to think about the true meaning of a story and its pieces, the more we own the story, the more we love the story, and the more we appreciate the author of that story. And the reality of what was meant by the author at a particular point in time means little in the grand yet simple scheme of telling a good story that a reader enjoys becoming a part of.

6 comments:

Sioux said...

Hope--I imagine it was rewarding to hear your fans speculating about the deeper points of your novel.

I think you should smile and act like you definitely planned those components...

Hope Clark said...

It's just fun, Sioux. And it never ceases to amaze me.

Heather Marsten said...

This post made me smile. Reminded me of the movie Back to School where Rodney Dangerfield hires Kurt Vonnegut to write a paper about Vonnegut's novel - the teacher says that the paper is garbage that Dangerfield got it all wrong.

Hope Clark said...

Love that movie!

Eileen B. said...

Thanks for sharing. I recall in my college English Lit class the professor instructed us to interpret the cover of a book that had a lot of abstract imagery. Fortunately a friend of mine had the guy the semester before and told me to come up with as much sexual reference as I could as that was what the prof was looking for. Yeah me! Got an A. Later found out that the prof was the author. Guess he wanted to see what people thought.

Hope Clark said...

Yeah, but unless he self-published the book, he didn't have much say in the design of the cover. Weird guy, sounds like.