This little epiphany took me completely by surprise. It’s all about perception. Me perceiving how others are reading and interpreting my story. And boy was I awakened.
As a writer, I think everyone is reading my story the same way I would, looking at the pacing, plotting, and story structure. Thinking about the conventions of the genre and fretting over word choice. Uh…no, I was way wrong.
Most people read for enjoyment, ie because they like to , not because they want to study the craft of writing. They don’t look at the words, they get swept up in the totality of them. And that’s the magic.
I gave my short story (for the contest) to some people at work to read. They became my beta readers although they didn’t know it. Heh, heh, heh. What completely amazed me was they really liked the story and they loved the concept. “Never heard of it before. How different,” they exclaimed. Except it’s not really that original especially for the genre. (Fantasy-think magic and stuff)
Even so, I was pumped. My readers were generous with their praise and thoughtful with their comments about what was “confusing.” Things I needed to address before the contest deadline. Wait, you’re not completely tearing me down over grammar, or over stilted dialogue, or a misplaced dialogue tag? If errors were there, my readers missed them, or else, my writing wasn’t technically bad, or even better, they were so swept up in the story, they glazed right over somethings. (They were actually fantastic at pinpointing plot holes.)
This realization opened my eyes. What I thought readers were going to critique or dislike or get aggravated with did not materialize. My preconceived notions about my readers and their expectations had me doubting my abilities and expecting the worse.
And then it was like, Karen, they are not looking at the story like you are. And all I could see was this big two-way mirror in front of me. Me, on one side, looking at the the story in their hands, and the readers on the other and the thin pane of glass between us and I realized they don’t perceive the story the way I perceive it at all. I was so relieved I felt my whole body relax.
That distance, that transparent wall is supposed to be there. I will picture it every time I give my story to someone to read. I will be more curious about their reactions and let them speak before I start rambling on about a plot point or character. I will remember that they are not looking at me, they are looking to me. They want to be swept away. They are looking at the words, hoping for the magic.