The Strange Magic of Fiction

 

My upcoming book just went through several rounds of editing and this last one was based on comments from Beta Readers. I’m not going to lie; it was stressful. As I read through the manuscript with all its margin comments it became quickly obvious that readers all take in different meanings from the same words, the same ideas.

The biggest one was the ending. It was split straight up the middle. Half loved it and couldn’t have wished for a better ending, the other half was disappointed and wanted something different.

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I was very surprised by some of the comments. The peppering of made-up language (mostly specific to an item of clothing or a common expression such as thank you or sorry) apparently confused some of the readers. Here I was, thinking that the meaning was obvious in context but for some the words threw them off the story. As a reader, those words would have pulled me in instead because it gives the world of the story flavor and uniqueness. Then again, I’m a linguist and I am forever fascinated with language.

Another surprising comment was during a love scene. It was my MC’s first time and for reasons I won’t go into right now (no spoilers) I wanted this moment to be magical. Not perfect, just magical in terms of emotional pleasure. A reader thought I should add something about pain, considering it was this girl’s first time. Other betas thought I should keep it the way it was.

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Don’t get me wrong. Their comments were very helpful and I did change a few things that hopefully bettered the flow and the content of the story. But it fascinated me how different we all are when we read. Same story, so many different opinions.

That is the magic of fiction, I think. The fact that not two people take away the same from the same book. Every book club session I attend is an exercise in reconciling often totally different feelings about the same event or the same character. One particular book club was divided into extremes. Half of the readers had absolutely loved the story, the other half had almost violently hated it. One character was sweet and loving for some, a loser for others.

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Fiction is pure magic both for the writer who dreams it and creates it, and the reader who interprets it and believes it.

Reading of a good book is a non-stop dialogue where the book speaks and the soul answers.(unknown)

 

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