Readers Create the Story

- by ria, on Wednesday, 6th October 2010, 10:07am

As a writer, I like to think I control everything about my story. The truth is, I control very little.

As soon as someone reads my story, I have lost all control of it. Every person who reads my story will render it differently. Names will change, both of people and places. Locations will look different. Even characters’ personalities will shift considerably. I no longer control the story, the reader does.

They invent my world all over again, using my words as a template. What they see in their mind as they read my words is not the same thing that I saw in my mind as I wrote the words. Where I see the main character as determined, they might see him as egotistical. Where I pronounce words with long vowels, they use short. I can do nothing about this.

My story doesn’t exist until someone reads it. I need readers to manifest my world and my stories. This is where things get dangerous. With all of us having control over the world, some people might expect things to go a certain way. If they see a character as strong, they expect him to do heroic things. If he does not act in accordance with their picture of him, they will be disappointed. It’s my responsibility, as the progenitor of the work, to give a clear template upon which readers can create the story.

How do I do this? By writing clearly, by giving my readers time to form a picture of each character and setting before I introduce more of them; by keeping things simple, by explaining the way things work and sticking within the rules.

I want to add, for the writers out there, your view of your world is no more right or valid than that of your readers. If they see the main character as egotistical, then he is egotistical. Don’t try to tell readers they are wrong, because they are not wrong. Everyone who reads the story creates the world, and they are all right.

In the words of Umberto Eco, “The author should die once he has finished writing. So as not to trouble the path of the text.”

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category: thoughts

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