Sunday, June 1, 2014

Fiction Friction (#11): Reader vs. Author Interpretations

These posts are meant to bring about some conversation, discussion, and perhaps even a debate. These discussion posts can occur at varying days of the week, mostly depending upon what's scheduled on the blog and what I feel like discussing.

I was thinking about this idea after my whole class share for my English Scholars Program class. It was really interesting to see how my classmates interpreted the song that I shared (which is actually 100 Colors; it'll be shared during the "Inspired: A Summer of Songs" event this summer). So it got me thinking about how an author's interpretation/view of their work compares to how others/readers view their work.

One example I need to use is Harry Potter and the recent Hermione/Ron thing that J.K. Rowling spoke about. I'm not focusing on what she actually said but rather on the discussions that stemmed from it. The thing is, as an author, J.K. Rowling can choose to interpret events and relationships as she wishes. Just because she thinks certain things about her characters and their unwritten future doesn't mean that you have to agree. Once writing is out to the public, the public can decide how they interpret the work.

In a similar vein, sometimes, an author believes that they are giving a certain message in their book/poem/etc, but then, some readers either won't ever see that message or they might even get an opposite message. It's always hard to gauge this, especially when dealing with a tough or touchy subject such as suicide, rape, etc.

But there are also aspects such as symbolism that can differ. In my song, 100 Colors, I wrote many of the lines because they just popped into my head that way. My classmates started to talk about what the colors represent and how the verses relate to the feeling they get from that. But it was interesting to me because they looked at it in such a deeper light than I had ever thought of the words. My line, "there are a hundred colors/bleeding through my fingertips" was just something that popped into my head. I honestly don't even know where that came from. It just sounded nice, and it fit the idea of art/photography in Solving for Ex, which the latter parts of the song were inspired by. It made me think about how authors may not always have the intent that readers interpret. I didn't write "colors" to symbolize emotions and the complexity of emotions. I wrote it because it came into my head, it fit, and it sounded right. But does that mean that the readers are wrong? Not necessarily. I believe that one of the powerful things about reading and writing is that different people interpret works in different ways. It's really interesting to see other peoples' perspective on the same piece of writing. It's the reason why, for every book with a 5 star review, there's a 1 star review. 

Do you think readers have the right to interpret writing as they wish? Is there a right or wrong interpretation (or does it depend)? What are your thoughts on interpretations? Do you sometimes think that you put more meaning into something than the author might have meant/intended?

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