A Trick of Light
You've written a book. Maybe two. Worked up enough courage to let others besides the usual family, friends, and/or critique partners read your efforts, and that's when you realize something unexpected is happening. In addition to the feedback being overwhelmingly positive, these readers are telling you how much they absolutely love a certain aspect of the story, one that you felt was a minor sub-plot, an unconscious nuance or inner-theme that you layered in to add depth to the material. It's this particular story element that really speaks to the reader, drawing them in and selling them on your novel. And the remarkable part, it can be unique for different readers.
It's this level of reader diffusion and involvement that every author dreams of...and I call it a trick of light.
When you were a kid, did you ever play in a pond or stream full of fish, watching them glide through the water ever so gracefully? And maybe you were curious enough to try and reach in and grab one, only to come up empty because the fish isn't really where you thought it was? Scientist call that refraction. Rays of light are bent as they move from one medium (air) to another (water), creating an optical illusion that causes a person to see one thing, but reality proves to be slightly different. The fish in the water appears to be in one place, but it's actually somewhere else.
I contend that a writer's work can be subjected to this same phenomenon. We see the vision of our novel as one thing, but others are free to interpret it as something slightly different. I've read interviews of famous authors who talk about how their fans related to their work in a way that was sometimes a genuine surprise to them. For the most part this is a very positive experience and rewarding in so many ways, but there could be a down side as well. How many books have been banned from school libraries across the country all because of narrow-minded elucidation?
With every project I undertake, I'm determined to make it appealing to as broad an audience as I possibly can, while still serving my target genre. But what I really hope to do is achieve a trick of light...for my book to mean many things to many people. That doesn't mean it has to be literary fiction, either. Take Harry Potter for instance, J.K. Rowland has achieved that status.
A lofty goal...I know. But nobody said it would be easy. How about you...have you ever received feedback in that vein before?