The Heart of the Reader

This year I started my writer Facebook page (@sandiedockerwriter – go check it out) and one of things I’ve been doing there is sharing favourite lines from books I’m reading. I’ve been picking lines that speak to me in some way – the beauty of the prose, sure, but mostly lines I’ve had some sort of emotional reaction to. And it’s got me to thinking about the relationship of the reader to the written word.

reading-partnershipFor every reader a book is a different experience, because as readers we bring our own experiences and feelings to what we’re reading. The first line I shared was “this was a crisis and everyone knows you don’t count calories in a crisis” from Saving Saffron Sweeting, by Pauline Wiles. As someone struggling with weight and who is very good at justifying eating all the wrong things (had a bad day – need chocolate; had a good day – celebrate with chocolate; achieved my writing goal for the week – reward with chocolate; got a rejection – drown sorrows in chocolate; got a full request – deserve chocolate…I think you get the picture), this line made me laugh out loud. But if I was someone who was healthy and fit and always had been, would I have just skipped over this line when reading?

The next line I shared, from the same book, was “Sometimes the familial hearth can be the loneliest place in the world.” Did this line appeal to me because we’ve just had Christmas, and you know, Christmas!, or because my sister and I had a massive fight recently (we’re ok now, don’t panic), or does everyone feel this way sometimes? If I’d read this without Christmas and said fight, would it have stood out to me?

The line I’m going to share on Friday, from Vineyard in the Hills by Lily Malone, is probably the most personal one so far. Lily has summed up how I feel so beautifully, it was almost like she was reading my soul. You’re curious now, aren’t’ you? Well, you’ll have to wait till Friday for the reveal, and then I might go into hiding because, well, then you’ll all know just a little too much about my insides!

Not my actual book club, but quite representative

Not my actual book club, but quite representative

You only have to read reviews or be in a book club to know just how the same book can affect different people in vastly different ways. My book club have been together for 6 years and not once in that time have the ten of us ever felt exactly the same way about a book. Z.K found this character charming and funny, but M.U thought he was annoying. M.C totally understood the motivation for that behaviour, but B.W thought it was a stretch. J.G loved the highfaluting language of the writer, but M.J found it pretentious. A.M thought that plot point was contrived, but K.L thought it plausible. J.B.D liked the ending, but S.D wanted to throw the book across the room… We are all mums with kids the same age, all from the same suburb, at similar stages in our lives, similar education backgrounds, but we couldn’t be more different as people, so it only stands to reason when we read, we each take something different from the experience.

So what does this mean as a writer?

As a writer, it is your job to reach into the emotional heart of your story, but how do you know what will resonate with your readers? The short answer is, you don’t.one-writes-only-half-the-book-the-other-half-is-with-the-reader-quote-1

So what do you do?

You just have to write what resonates with you and your readers will find their own way into your story and take out what only they can.

What about you? Have you noticed your reaction to a book change depending on what’s going on in your life, or because of your life experiences?

S 🙂

 

 

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6 responses to “The Heart of the Reader

  1. Well I for one am excited to find out about that line in Vineyard In The Hills!

  2. You know, I don’t think about it often, but while we all share common experiences, we all interpret those experiences in a different way. I don’t think I could be friends with someone who didn’t celebrate good times with sweets, though. 😀 Putting book quotes up is such a good idea! I’ve been too scared to set up an author page. Who’s going to like it? How am I going to maintain it? I’m half invisible on Facebook. But honestly, seeing you do it makes me want to reconsider my stance on it. I’ll be looking for that quote! ^_^

  3. I’m on tenterhooks for Friday’s line, too!
    And yes, there are some lines I write which do feel like potential soundbites, but there are other things readers notice where I barely knew I was being clever. In fact, I probably wasn’t being clever, I was just writing something which seemed to resonate with what the character would feel.
    This is also a great reminder that reviews can be incredibly varied, and that some people will love a book and “get” what the author was trying to do… whereas others will find it totally “meh”.

    • It’s probably those moments when our characters are just doing what comes naturally, and where not getting in the way, where the real resonance happens.
      Please don’t visit FB on Friday. I’m all shy now.

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