Reading and Writing: It's All Subjective, Isn't It?

Monday, September 27, 2010
When I write something, I like to do the best I can. When it is for a newspaper article, I try to keep a balance to the information I put together. When it is for a corporate client, I keep in mind the audience the client is trying to serve. When it is my fiction, I keep my reader in mind.
But while putting in my best efforts, I also need to keep in mind some of the elements that can impact the final product and often a reader's subjectivity is one of the major items that needs to be considered. How will the work be received by the reader?
I'm in a small reading group right now and we're getting ready to share our thoughts about an old British mystery to look at the writer's use of the language of the period. I checked out from the library a copy of this book--published in the 1930s--and it is an edition published in that era. Already, I'm slightly judging the book by its cover. (After all, if it were really popular and well written, shouldn't it have been kept in print and replaced by the library regularly?)
One of my reader friends is British and does not like the class distinctions portrayed within this novel from 80 years ago.
Another reader wants to chuck the book out the window because it is so overwritten--in comparison to many of the books today, which compete in our multimedia society. Something the mystery writer might never have imagined.
Although we are reading it to study the language patterns, we've already taken a novel and determined what we don't like about it based upon our own experiences.
While skilled at looking at a work objectively, if I'm not careful, I might read more subjectively. It's often the default reading standard we have.
So when you are starting your next piece of writing, do keep your audience in mind. But also understand that some will be thrilled with the end result, due to where the reader starts from.
And there are times when, you know, it's just hard to please everyone all the time, especially 80 years from now!

Elizabeth King Humphrey is a writer, editor, reviewer and (often subjective) reader who lives in North Carolina.


Unknown said...

Great to have a reminder about reading audiences! For me, it helps to read aloud an item that I am writing.


Charlotte Rains Dixon said...

It is also good to keep in mind the importance of taking a piece for what it is. By this I mean not judging a genre book by literary fiction standards, or vice-versa. I first learned this when critiquing manuscripts, but it is also good to do when reading books!

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