1. Thank you all for your patience with our technical errors. We think we've fixed it, but please do report anything that's not working right, by posting on the 'minor bugs' thread in Support and Feedback, which can be found here.
    Dismiss Notice
  1. G. Anderson

    G. Anderson Active Member

    Joined:
    Oct 1, 2016
    Messages:
    238
    Likes Received:
    116
    Location:
    Germany

    The Meaning of a Book for Writers and Readers

    Discussion in 'Book Discussion' started by G. Anderson, Nov 7, 2016.

    Hi All,

    Lately, I've been talking with friends about the interpretation of a book, and there's a lot of people who will tell you that if you understood something differently than them, then you misunderstood. We even debate the meaning of books in school. Personally, I remember an episode from my school days where it got out of hand, and teachers and pupils disagreed so strongly that we finally had to contact the author...

    But the reason, I've been in discussions about this is that what I find one of the most beautiful things about books is that it can have a different meaning to everyone! If I write a story, I have a clear idea of what I want to say with the book, but what I love is when someone tells me that they took something completely different away from it. I like that a story can create so many ripples.

    So to you all as writers: is it important for you that the reader gets what you wanted to say or do you like it when they have understood it completely differently?

    Also to you as readers: Is there any book that you've read where you haven't agreed with your friend's, family's, or media's interpretation of it?

    I know it may be a bit of a common example, but to me, I guess it is Alice in Wonderland. It has always been one of my favourite stories, and when people see the many copies and pictures I have, they often want to talk about symbolism (which has never been my favourite), hidden meanings, whether it was written on drugs, etc.

    But to me it's simply a story that reminds me that when I get stuck, I can start to think differently. Ask 'what if' of everything? And if I ever feel I need drugs to be creative, it's time to love my imagination and inner child a bit more :). To me, it's meaning is also a reminder that even though I might think I know something, there's always so much more to learn and that the life I know isn't the only kind of life to be lived.
     
    Cave Troll, Simpson17866 and Lifeline like this.
  2. Earp

    Earp Not Sorry Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 13, 2016
    Messages:
    2,497
    Likes Received:
    5,562
    Location:
    Come and Gone
    Like you, I'm delighted when a reader sees something in my story I hadn't thought of. I have so often found meaning in a book or story that's completely different from that of most readers I begin to wonder if I'm missing the point.
     
  3. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll It's Coffee O'clock everywhere. Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 8, 2015
    Messages:
    17,732
    Likes Received:
    26,792
    Location:
    Where cushions are comfy, and straps hold firm.
    I write Sci-Fi, so you get what you want from it. It is nothing more than stories to escape reality and go on adventures.
    When reading I remember things of noteworthy, but I don't try to find some hidden truth in the subtext.
    I just want to go on a journey to a different place and be out of reality for a while. Sometimes it makes me think of things
    I had not, but overall it is about not being 'enlightened' by some weird plot details, or a character's odd philosophy.
    Only need to feel the emotions and the world that is constructed for me to imagine as I wish. Not to be hit over the head
    with anything.

    Set me down a road to places I have never been. Beings I have never seen or met. Feel the spray of the ocean of the bow
    of a ship filled with Pirates. The intensity of a battle between species on far distant worlds. The joy, the pain. The good,
    the bad, and the odd. Provocative of the imagination.
     
    G. Anderson likes this.
  4. antlad

    antlad Banned

    Joined:
    Nov 28, 2016
    Messages:
    297
    Likes Received:
    96
    Yes, most times. We all have our own experiences which take us in different directions when we explore. Words are art, and art is what you want it to be. When I was young, my parents taught me to run away from anyone trying to 'teach' me what art meant; and I always have (except for points in history where subterfuge was needed).
    I painted for a long time, for me, and never told anyone what the stuff meant ti me; you decide what it means to you makes a lot of people uncomfortable. They will walk onto a car lot and drop 40k on a piece of crap, but balk at making up their mind what a picture says to them.

    A quick story- I submitted a prompt to contest, friend saw it and said it was way too one dimensional, I asked why, she said that two words in it makes it mean only one thing, I spit out 5 different scenarios rapid-fire, she was stunned.
     
    G. Anderson likes this.
  5. Rosacrvx

    Rosacrvx Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Oct 13, 2016
    Messages:
    679
    Likes Received:
    416
    Location:
    Lisbon, Portugal
    I like to leave room for interpretation. The reader can make of it what they want.


    All! :bigtongue:
     
    G. Anderson likes this.
  6. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2014
    Messages:
    10,854
    Likes Received:
    11,676
    Sometimes I like it when readers have different interpretations, sometimes I don't. There have been times when readers picked up thematic connections I hadn't really considered, and stuff like that is great, but other times when I feel they've "misinterpreted" a character's actions and I want to argue with them (I don't do it, but I want to). Like, if they say a character was showing how selfish he is when he does X and I don't think X is selfish... grrrr.
     
    Rosacrvx and Lifeline like this.
  7. antlad

    antlad Banned

    Joined:
    Nov 28, 2016
    Messages:
    297
    Likes Received:
    96
    We all have our own experiences that guide us through life and protect us. My ex is an only child, extremely selfish (no siblings to teach lessons), considers me extremely selfish because I tried to 'change' her, so she could get along in society. She didn't, and doesn't.
    Often times we see red flags in a glance, and those are our own red flags.
     
  8. Wreybies

    Wreybies Thrice Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 1, 2008
    Messages:
    23,844
    Likes Received:
    20,803
    Location:
    El Tembloroso Caribe
    I think it depends on how granular we're looking at this (individual aspects vs overall intent), but regardless, for me, as a writer, I'm not overly concerned with different engagements of my story. It just means I left room for the reader to connect and engage, and the reader is always going to bring his/her own history.

    I had a discussion once with a friend who is a Ukrainian interpreter (all my friends are either interpreters or attorneys) concerning the book Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer. Because he is from that part of the world, the surface story, the events and people and places, and the relationship to the true story of Trochinbrod (Zofjówka) was the important story being told. For him, the characters represented the facets of the history of that story, a history with which he was very familiar. I'm not from that area of the world and it was only after reading the book that I came to learn its relationship to real-life events, so I was free to engage the story at its magical realism level, which for me was the real story (the deep story) and for my friend was just an unusual and slightly confusing decoration in the tell of the tale. He didn't understand the part concerning the mythologized genesis of the town and thus was unable to link that portion with the symbolism inherent in the characters of the modern-day portion of the story. We have two different histories, my friend and I. His is a knowledge of the place and events. Mine is a knowledge of storytelling devices and the expected dynamics of certain kinds of stories; hence, we read two very different books with the same title and cover and author. Both are perfectly valid interpretations and engagements. I can only imagine that Foer would have been delighted to know about the time Aleksandr and I spent debating this book. :) I know I would have been had the book been mine.
     
  9. Senko

    Senko Member

    Joined:
    May 21, 2013
    Messages:
    53
    Likes Received:
    10
    Interesting questioning. As a reader, I think there are authors, or, to be more specific, there are books, where you can tell that the author has something to tell. Maybe a message. But, I doubt that it's always the case. I have heard many times that some books are meant to entertain the reader, not necessarily to convey a message.
     
    Cave Troll likes this.

Share This Page

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.
    Dismiss Notice