Saturday, October 16, 2010

It’s All in Our Interpretation

A car swerves and hits another car, spins out the back tire pops, and it rolls over several times before it slides to a stop in the middle of the street.  A group of three people saw the whole thing and guess what?  When you asked what happened, you’re going to get three different variations of the same accident.

Witness One:  Oh man, a Honda Odyssey was changing lanes and a little Toyota Prius was in it’s blind spot so the Honda had to swerve to avoid hitting the Toyota.  The dude in the Honda over corrected, swerved back and sideswiped the Buick Skylark in the slow lane, when the Odyssey bounced off the Buick, it spun out, the right back tire popped and it tumbled end over end before it scraped to a stop in the fast lane.

Witness Two:  This jerk was drunk driving when he swerved and hit this old piece of crap car.  The drunk guys car rolled over and burst into flames.  

Witness Three:  This old lady in a van almost wrecked into a car in the fast lane, then the van swerved over and hit this classic Buick.  The van went airborne.  It had to have flipped five times before it crunched to a stop against the cement center divide. 

Three witnesses, three different stories, but which one is right?  We could assume that each of these witnesses have the facts right?  Well you know what happens when we assume.  You make an (ASS) out of (U) and (ME).  

But wait each one of these people stood in the same place and saw it from the same angle, and at the same time.  What happened to their stories?  (I’ll tell you)

They each interpreted what they saw and made the story fit to their world or life.  They all had the ability to deduce what they saw, but then chose to tell the story their own way.
Did you know the same thing happens when we read a book?  Every book we read, we find a common thread that links our personal experiences to one of the characters.  It is just our nature.  It is the “something” that keeps you reading and projecting.  When I wrote Wilson Mooney, I had my own thoughts about Wilson, what type of person she was to me.   I felt I knew her flaws, strengths, weaknesses, and abilities like the back of my hand, yet when I had several people read it; they saw such a different character than I did.
How does that happen?  We all read the same manuscript and yet many of us saw her totally different.  Could it be that the little common thread that wove Wilson into our hearts also gave us the ability to connect with her at different levels?
Let me give you a little family background on Wilson’s character. Wilson never knew her father; her mother dumped her at her grandparents’ house at the ripe young age of eight, and never came back.  Wilson’s grandparents made the decision to send her to a prestigious boarding school in Northern California.  Ten years later, still in boarding school, both of her grandparents die within six months of each other.  Wilson is alone in the world.  A month shy of her eighteenth birthday, she falls for her government teacher.  And the rest, as they say, is history…  (Okay if I said more, I would give away the story)

With this tiny bit of information you might see her as a victim or broken, yet when writing the story of Wilson, I never “thought” of her as a victim.  To me she was a young woman who has had some tragic events in her life that has molded and shaped her into the person she was.  Sure I could empathize with her feelings of abandonment and the anger she must have felt towards her mother.  I could relate to the excitement and first love she has for Max or the pain she embodied when she was confronted with the reality of her family life.  Fear, exhilaration, anxiety and pleasure- all end up being the cars that belong to her, on the roller-coaster of her life.  And thank God, because what a boring story if she wasn’t multifaceted.

I haven’t had any of my beta readers tell me they couldn’t relate to her on some level (knock on wood).  Even the readers that saw Wilson as weak, vulnerable, unstable, and broken felt her character was relatable.  Some were worried about her and the decisions she was making.  Other Betas felt Wilson was a witty, self-sufficient, strong character that they could relate to.

So, maybe all the witnesses were right to an extent.  One wreck, many different stories, just like one Wilson, many different ways to interpret her.  And to be honest, I’m okay with that.  Because as long as it made the readers feel something, I accomplished exactly what I set out to do. (dog-ear the steamy pages)

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