A talented writer directs and controls a reader’s pace and space through carefully chosen words and punctuation. The reader then navigates the words like a raft floating down a river and uses grammar and punctuation to guide her progress through the story. If the reader is successful and the journey is made together, then the author is successful.
What happens to the words when the reader chooses to “read between the lines” or gives alternative meaning to them? What happens if the pace is wrong and the space (context) confused? Is it the reader who is wrong? Or is it the writer who has failed.
In my mind, it is the writer who has failed. My intent as a writer is to take my reader to wherever I want to take her. If I wanted to let my reader lead the way, I would write stories with holes in them, like those Mad Libs games my kids used to like so much. If I cannot take my reader to a place of my choosing, then I have failed to transform my words into her experience.
So then, is it about control and manipulation through words? I don’t know. But writing is more than just using words to describe something. Writing should capture feeling, physical characteristics, sound, taste, and mood, etc. and put it into a space along the continuum of time that conveys those attributes to the reader for her consumption and digestion.
Like the food that we eat, we should all have our own idea as to whether or not it tastes good. But it is up to the writer to ensure that we at least know what we are eating.
Words are the bricks that when laid properly, lead us to whatever destination the writer chooses. Keeping the reader on the right path is the goal. A writer only gets one chance to put out her story. But the reader is able to read and re-read; interpret and reinterpret.
So be choosy when you read. Discern whether or not the author left you behind or abandoned you to your own devices. A good writer never abandons his reader. Rather, he propels her forward; hungry to learn what will happen next and eager to keep the story alive.
As my own mother told me when I was teaching my kids to read, “read through the book and out the other side.” It is in the analysis at the end of the tale that we learn whether or not the trip was worth it. Teach your children to do the same.
Remember, a good reader becomes a good writer.
Thanks for being my friends.