I’ve been thinking about perceptions a lot lately. For one, reviews are rolling in for The Art of Getting Stared At. On the whole, they’ve been overwhelmingly positive, which I’m very happy about. What’s really interesting to me, though, is how widely divergent opinions can be on a single character or event. Most readers have found Sloane, the protagonist, well-rounded. They enjoyed watching her character grow and change. But a few readers had the opposite reaction. Sloane, they said, didn’t resonate with them. She felt flat. They didn’t see what the other readers saw.
Who’s right? As the author, I could (and probably should) side with Sloane, the character I created and grew to love over the writing of the story. But truth isn’t always straightforward. In reality, all readers are right. Because they bring themselves to the page and read through their own filters, they take what they need, want or expect from every experience.
At a recent retreat, a writer was describing an assignment she did for a professor years earlier. She presented a painting to a dozen or so people and recorded their thoughts about what the artist was trying to convey in the piece. As expected, interpretations were all over the board. Everyone had a different opinion. She wrote up her findings, and was incredibly pleased with how the assignment turned out. The professor’s perception was less than stellar; she got a C for her efforts. Too bad. The professor in the room across the hall might have given her an A.
Perceptions. You’ve gotta love ‘em. Even if you don’t always agree with them.