“Marion doesn’t mean what she says,” a hypothetical book club member asserts in regards to a character in a fictitious book. “She really loves Andrew but she can’t say so.”
“Where does it say that in the book?” asks the member of the book club who is also an editor. “Where does it say she really loves Andrew? And why can’t she say so?”
“Because people who were living in Philadelphia in that time period had to be careful about what they said. Society was repressive back then.”
Thunder clouds gather between the editor’s brows. “1944? In the midst of the World War II?”
“But…Philadelphia,” responds the book club member as if the place name speaks volumes about its degree of repression.
“Marion can’t say she loves Andrew because she is going to marry Charles,” says another book club member.
“No,” shrieks the maddened editor, frantically searching through the book, “the author says she is ambivalent about Andrew. Let me find the line.”
Editors are text driven, and we like to try to ferret out what the author is really saying, unlike most readers who are unabashed about putting their own spin on what they read. But recently, we caught ourselves in the act of making an assumption about something we had read and the light dawned. We do it too.
All readers bring their own experiences, prejudices and sensibilities to bear on what they read. Hence, no book is ever read just the way the writer intended it to be. Readers change things. They make books their own.
In spite of this, we always tell our writers they have to trust the reader. We’ll explain in the next blog.