Pride sucks and has no place in how you view yourself relative to your readers.
I was half-tempted to leave my thoughts simply at that. If you as an author think that you’re in any way above your readers, you’re wrong. If you want to be smug about how you’re the creator and they’re merely the listener and they have to understand your deep, intellectual plotlines, that’s cute. As I kind of implied in the last blog post, if someone outlines something you did ‘wrong’ in one of your past stories, you know who’s at fault for that miscommunication? Odds are, you.
If a reader misinterprets a passage and gets the wrong idea about a character, you have failed to convey a message. An author’s job, the one thing they need to do, is convey a message. Granted, people see things in different ways and maybe some people won’t catch on to things as quickly as others. As authors, that’s a burden we have to bear. Sometimes – no, all times, not everyone is going to understand what you mean fully, unless you want to be boring and convey a character is sad by making them say, “I’m sad.” (That said, a character bluntly saying “I’m sad” can also be powerful in the right context, pick your poison.)
Recently someone wrote to me outlining a flaw in Only if You Want – according to them, I kept saying ‘Nicole’ in the last part of the story when I should have written ‘Olivia.’ As soon as I read their message, I thought about how much of a dumb idiot I was and thanked them for pointing it out. I rushed to the story only to find that… I couldn’t find a single instance of a swapped name. What I did notice after a while was a very jarring transition of a scene with Nicole to a scene with Olivia. I guess they didn’t notice the transition and got confused.
They misunderstood, but ultimately, that’s my fault. It was my choice to make the final transition that jarring, and in this particular place, it didn’t pay out. The consequence was an ill-informed reader. That’s on me, as a writer. As soon as I’m made aware a reader interpreted something differently than I wanted, and ultimately it’s because of a mistake I made, I have two choices – smugly tell the reader they misunderstood and there was a jarring scene transition there, or be humble and realize my haste to transfer the scene created confusion. It’s often easy in hindsight when I phrase it like this to see what the right choice is, but in the moment, will we always be able to make the right call? Sometimes I make the wrong calls. We all do. That’s what makes us human. The best thing we can do is be aware that it’s a looming possibility and combat this, and the best way to combat this hurdle and always work your hardest to convey the best message is to minimize pride. I’ll talk to you all next week.