I've been blogging for a little over a year now and I've learned many things. One important lesson that came very quickly is that no matter how clear I think I'm being when I write, others will interpret my words in ways I never imagined. This is especially true in my fiction.
Most of what I post is flash fiction so it's not like there's a long, complex narrative going on. While I pride myself in being able to throw in some clever twists from time to time, I believe most of my stories are pretty straight forward. Yet, more often than not, when I check comments on my stories there's at least one person that says something that tells me they failed to grasp what I was saying.
I can't help feeling a bit disappointed that the reader missed the point because, gosh darn it, I thought it was a nice little tale and it seems they missed out. It's also frustrating because it makes me second guess my work.
What did I do wrong? How could I have made the story better or more clear?
Flash fiction is difficult. I work within a 100-200 word limit and the real story often lies in between what is explicitly expressed. If the subtlety of the story fails, it's worthless.
On my part, I've come to notice a trap into which writers may fall. As I write, I've already constructed a much larger story than what is being told. This is especially true with flash fiction, where the pinhole of writing must convey the entire universe that lies on the other side. Since I'm familiar with the bigger picture, I often tend to forget that my audience is not privy to the same information and thus may not read my words with the same understanding. What might seem an obvious reference to me might have no context for the reader and thus the story fails.
Post by angietrafford on May 4, 2016 9:24:27 GMT -6
Have we ever missed the point of one of your stories? I probably have and that makes me feel a little bad… But sometimes people do miss what I think it's quite obvious. For example, I am a time travel character who I called, Lorne. As far as I was concerned this character was a male (which I thought was obvious as I'd given him a boy's name!) Much to my confusion, everybody assumed it was a female! This is when I discovered that you should never assume anything when it comes to readers!
I don't know if you have misinterpreted any of my stories, Angie (and I appreciate all of your comments on my page) but I've seen others that, through their comments suggest that they may have missed what I was going for. I think that's excusable with flash fiction. It is so challenging to create a story in such a limited amount of space that misunderstandings will happen, but in longer stories, I have to assume that if multiple readers get the wrong ideas, that must be the fault of the writer.
That's why I love feedback. I wrote a story about two female co-workers going to lunch and their interactions were analyzed by a number of readers and each had a different perspective on the motivation of the characters. It opened my eyes to things I never considered.
This happened to me recently, when a published writer offered to read the first page of my novel and give me critique. She generally had really positive things to say, which was a huge relief. But... I was painting the scenario of my MC being left in financial ruin after her husband wasted all their money and then died. And I'd used a metaphor:
"She should have paid more attention, helped [her husband], stopped it from going so far. And now she was the only one left, to captain what was left of this rickety boat.
Well, the person critiquing thought the scene was taking place on an ACTUAL BOAT. And hey, why wouldn't she? My fault for using a metaphor before the reader knows what's really going on.
Too funny. So glad that she gave me a thorough enough critique that I caught that!