You Make the Story, Too

Week21

Edit: So it turns out I’m an idiot that wrote this whole blog last week and forgot to hit ‘publish.’ Sorry about that. I’ll be sure to put out two blog posts in the coming week to make up for this.

This week after I publish the blog I’ll be sure to post GBM11 to other websites, in case you hate coming here. But if you hate coming here, why are you reading these?

I probably should talk more about GBM today, but recently a really cool viewer sent me an email talking to me about Only If You Want and then shared his thoughts about it, and it led me to a really cool conclusion – readers sometimes make more connections that make a story cool and worthwhile than an author does.

The reader (who preferred not to be outed here) talked to me about how Only If You Want presented the final piece of a puzzle where every main character in the Being More Social aside from Adam embodied a deadly sin.

In the story, Nicole embodied lust, and made Adam’s life more exciting but also more of a headache by introducing him to sex. Megan embodied envy, as her desire to be like Nicole and be anyone but herself turned her into someone who gets off on being validated from others, which gets her pregnant. Matt, her brother, embodied wrath, and was the most physically-minded threat to Adam. Paul, who was a cautionary tale of giving up when the going got tough, embodied sloth, and he had to live with not chasing after Nicole or pushing himself to be the very best. May embodied gluttony, not only through her past of being heftier but also because of her desire to have easy access to many guys at once and assumed they’d be okay with that. Carson embodied greed as his dehumanizing view of women made is seem as though they were collectibles to him. And finally, as the new side story showed, Phil embodied pride, and his own ego and obsession with being the president is what brought him down the way it did.

Did I plan or even think of this kind of stuff before I saw that email? Hell no! I was just writing out what happened in my head. I rarely plan out my stories anyway, as I’ve talked about before. This was an awesome example of how readers have, in my opinion, as much to do with subtext and making a story amazing as a writer does.

Remember in high school when you were studying Shakespeare and the teacher told you, “This character represents the conflict in blah blah blah” and you’re thinking, “No, I’m pretty sure he’s just a mean king”? (Unless it’s only Canada that does this in the curriculum, for my American readers.) I feel like Shakespeare, and a lot of other writers, accidentally created characters that were representations and metaphors and all that, and it took the reader to realize and declare it. In terms of BMS specifically, there’s something I put in the subtext about Nicole, and to this day, only one person has gotten it (or at least emailed me about it). I made that particular choice very consciously and specifically, and a lot of people have misinterpreted the decision (and hey, they get to decide what it means, unless I make it explicit I have to live with the conclusions readers make about my work, that’s the price of subtlety). I was very happy when I got that email, and very happy when I got this email, for completely opposite reasons.

So keep reading, keep interpreting, and above all, please don’t ever obsess over what I or any other author “wanted” you to think. I want you to just enjoy the story and feel the characters. Beyond that, make any conclusions you wish, it’s your story too. I’ll talk to you all next week.

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