Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Inviting Readers to Rewrite My Stories

This post first appeared as a guest blog on the site of mystery writer, Camille Minichino, "The Real Me."  I am happy now to bring it home for my readers here to share.

As an author of fiction who writes for publication, I hold my stories lightly when I share them with my readers. I try not to be too possessive or caught up in “will they get it?” It has taken time, but I have come to understand that no two persons reading the same book will read it the same way, let alone imbibe the author’s precise intent. The same is true of film and the performing arts. No two movie goers interpret the same film in exactly the same way.
I’ve known this all my life as a reader and film lover. Now that I am on the other side of the artistic process, I am aware that I must let readers ‘rewrite’ my novels, find their own interpretation, and apply them to their own lives. I am no longer caught up in whether they “get” my story. Once out of my hands, it becomes their story.
The following “Aha!” passage in Misquoting Jesus by Bart D. Ehrman made this insight click for me: “Once readers put a text in other words, they have changed the words. This is not optional when reading; it is not something you can choose not to do when you peruse a text. The only way to make sense of a text is to read it, and the only way to read it is by putting it in other words, and the only way to put it in other words is by having words to put it into, and the only way you have other words to put it into is to have a life, and the only way to have a life is by being filled with desires, longings, needs, wants, beliefs, perspectives, worldviews, opinions, likes, dislikes—and all the other things that make humans human. And so to read a text is, necessarily, to change a text(the underline is mine).
Now, I look forward to readers’ interpretations of my stories. I  especially enjoy having someone discover a level of meaning beyond my conscious intent. Recently, I received this message in an e-mail from a reader: “The value of The Saint of Florenville: A Love Story is in it’s real life application to modern-day sainthood. In their day, all of our martyred saints’ lives (and deaths) would have been every bit as gruesome. In a sense, not to die and to live through it, may be even more brutal to the human spirit. Yet these two saints do survive.” That’s more than I had in mind when I wrote the book, and I am grateful to this reader—and others—for helping me to better understand my own stories.

(c) 2012 by Alfred J. Garrotto
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The Saint of Florenville: A Love Story is available in paperback and all e-book formats.

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