Reddit Work Interpret Writing

Who cares about authorial intent?

Last week, the ‘Front Page of the Internet’ went insane. Again.

This is the perfect time to talk about ownership, authorial intent, and why you have no control over what your audience thinks. And, hell, why not start a discussion?

Congratulations! After decades of laboring and volumes of edits,  you’ve finished your Magnum Opus. And you know this one, THIS ONE, is going to change the world.

You, dear writer, are finally going to make an impact so large that people will know your name for aeons to come.

However, unless you are a master of psychological persuasion AND the written word AND you can predict the future, collective imagination of humanity, you do not get to decide how your work is interpreted.

Last week, users of Reddit, (“The Front Page of the Internet”) a social media/news/link aggregate site, were in an uproar over recent changes in administration. These changes, while drastic on their own, weren’t communicated to thousands of volunteer moderators on the site, and in reaction to this, dozens of the most popular subreddits have ‘gone dark.’

They’re taking a stand. For the moment, anyway.

A few weeks before this, there was more outrage at subreddit bannings. Something about freedom of speech versus harassment? Again, it was a big deal at the time, and the repercussions probably haven’t finished repercussing.

What does Reddit drama have to do with us writers?

Social media has been gaining importance in the literary world, for dozens of reasons. How many of you have advertised your own pieces on your blog, or through twitter (Speaking of which, you can download my free Sci-fi short story here)?

But right now, we’re concerned with another important aspect of the drama. Authorial intent.

When you wrote your (imaginary) Magnum Opus, you had goals in mind. Your readers were going to walk many miles in your characters’ shoes. At the end, your readers’ lives would be changed once they’d seen the whole story come together (‘Wow! Maybe I, too, could fall in love with a robot!’ or something like that).

At least, that’s how we want it work.

“The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”

As a writer, you don’t get to choose how your readers read your work. You don’t get to choose what they think, you don’t get to choose what they agree with or what they disagree with.

Readers don’t care about what you want to say.

Readers care about what they read, and what they understand, and what leaves an impression on them.

It doesn’t matter if the recent Reddit admin changes are in the best interests of Reddit and all it’s users – redditors are pissed off.

It doesn’t matter what Magic Mike XXL is telling us about society’s views on the male physique (this is just an example, OK? I haven’t seen it, and I have no idea what it’s about).

Authorial intent will always matter. But that doesn’t mean your audience will see what you want them to see.

As you are writing your own stories, are you thinking about how to make your audience understand your intent? How does your intent guide the way you write? How important is authorial intent to you?

Write your thoughts in the comments below. Don’t forget to like, follow, and share this to some other place on the internet (maybe even Reddit? HAH).

12 thoughts on “Who cares about authorial intent?

  1. Yes, it is disconcerting when people see things you didn’t mean in your work, but I suppose that is the way with any artistic work. Look at abstract art for example – people see all sorts of deep meanings in little swirls and squiggles or straight lines, whereas I only see a ‘king’s new clothes’ scenario!

    Like

  2. Ah, nice thought-provoking post. I find people are most influenced through their own tinted glasses of life experiences and values. For example, two readers read the same story about a murder where the suspect is found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment. One sees those years behind bars as an opportunity for reflection, forgiveness and redemption. The other reader sees it as payback, a hell on earth. Every day will be a reminder of his sins.
    Perception is reality and that goes for what we write. We can’t always predict how others interpret our words. Thanks for the post.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It does seem like it has to be part of decency to pay attention to what the author intended, or probably intended. I suppose it’s part of the charitable interpretation we’re supposed to make for people’s arguments. That if someone presents an argument, even if there is an apparent ambiguity or loose interpretation that makes for ridiculous conclusions, you should read it on the assumption that the author meant to make the best possible case, or at minimum the least-foolish case, for as long as that’s possible.

    But yeah, sometimes, whatever the intent is, the result doesn’t care. I’m reminded of something Walt Kelly’s Porky Pine said to Pogo: if the public is gone honor you they ain’t gonna let your personal feelings get in the way.

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  4. After publishing my first novel this was the biggest revelation for me. People would come back to me and tell me about my story. One person chose a minor character as the main protagonist, another unwittingly renamed the main character etc. Two further novels in, I now understand that people read about themselves and weave your story wit their own memories. Disconcerting, but that’s how the brain works.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Do you find yourself focusing on a certain demographic (Maybe people who have similar upbringings)?

      Or is that something that’s never bothered you before? I know plenty of writers who write for themselves, and their audience organically arises.

      Oh, and thank you for the comment!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Interesting point, about the demographic. I actually am more comfortable writing about settings outside what I have grown up in. I think my writing is inspired a lot by what I read growing up, than the actual experience of growing up.

        I have had people ask me why I don’t write more stories in the Indian setting (since I am Indian), but my answer to that has always been that it doesn’t come naturally to me. I do write stories in the Indian milieu but haven’t really felt the pulse of the characters as much, in those tales. People still stop by and read though, whether from reciprocation or genuine interest, I have never analysed as yet 🙂

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      2. From reading your (lovely!) blog, I had noticed a bit of what you’re talking about. Have you ever tried writing about the locale you were raised in? The environment, or the people?

        And I wonder, do you find most of your writing is written for yourself, possibly to satisfy your own imagination or dreams of wandering into another life?

        For me, that’s really all it’s ever been about. Writing about another place that I’ve always wanted to see.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Agree with the fact that I write primarily for myself, as a sort of release, if you will.

        Imagination has always been a bit overactive, to be honest, so I cannot really touch upon say, social subjects or political drama, although I love watching movies/shows on the those topics.
        There’s been a bit of trauma in the past- depression/ bipolar disorder- so that may explain some of the darker themes of my flash fiction. Plus, getting right into the skin of a character I have just conjured out of thin air is wildly fascinating, to be honest. I can almost picture myself standing in the shoes of a murderer, thinking what’s about to happen next.

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