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.
For 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!
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?
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?