This Writing Life
Writer and psychologist.
View all posts by Ian Hocking
You can imagine those scenarios, but you can’t directly implant those imaginings into the minds of your readers. The best that you can hope is that your words are effective enough to trigger their imaginations, so that something roughly similar appears there. As a fiction writer, words aren’t your product, they’re your tools.
Very interesting piece, Ian. A friend remarked, recently, “…the reader gets carried away with their own mental pictures. You want them to do this as long as they’re seeing more or less what you want them to see… but it can take them somewhere very different than you imagined! She was referring to this snippet of my writing. I had to disagree. I want to give the reader as much freedom as possible, to explore the capacities of my characters.
Thanks for stopping by, Tim. If only I could directly implant these things. That would something, wouldn’t it?
That’s a good point, Martin. There’s certainly something to be said for letting the reader create their own interpretations and not worrying too much about what they come up with. And, perhaps, these differences are a positive part of the process.
I think it’s inevitable that that every reader will picture things slightly differently from the author, and also from each other. That’s the main reason I don’t like to watch adaptations of things that I’ve read.
Thanks for your comment, Lee. I wouldn’t argue that readers should picture things in the same way, but I’m interested in how these characters are transported. What’s lost?
Things may be lost from the author’s imaginings, other things will be added. It’s a game of Chinese whispers which has preoccupied literary critics for more than a century.
Perhaps you could create a project similar to a game of Chinese whispers, where a reader could write their understanding of a passage of one of your books and you could read that and write your understanding of it? Not perfect, but I’m not sure who else you might investigate it. Perhaps you can think of other ways.
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