I have problem, one to which many of you out there might be able to relate. Let me give you a situation here.
You are happy in your life, experiencing a story. It could be a book, a movie, or a television show. It doesn’t really matter the medium. The point, is the creation. This is a story that was intentionally created, and you are now for better or worse invested in the outcome. It happens.
Then, your world crashes down as you reach a part that is, simply put, wrong. Somehow, the writer (or writers) planted the clues, created a structure, and did not see where everything was supposed to end up. I don’t know how they missed it, when everyone else in the world sees what SHOULD have happened. All right, maybe I’m the only one who sees what ‘should’ have happened. The point is, they got it wrong.
Does this sound familiar to anyone else?
Technically speaking, I know I should not say the writer got it wrong. It is their story, but when the story is told well you feel like you are a part everything. You become emotionally connected to every fictional character, and you know what you want to happen. You know what should happen. When the writer doesn’t agree it is hard not to feel betrayed.
This is more than a problem for readers (or watchers), this is a problem for writers. Sometimes you know the outcome you envision will upset people. Is it all right to keep going, knowing it will break hearts?
The problem seems to come in when the writer is telling a different story than the reader is hearing.
Sometimes I, as the writer, know exactly what the characters are thinking and feeling, but am unable to put all of it into words. After all, much of human behavior is subtext. For example, I don’t walk up to those I am close to on a daily basis and tell them, ‘I find you enjoyable to be around, and consider you a friend. You rank #4 on my list of favorite humans in this moment.” Honestly, I think most people I know would be frightened if I told them my feelings regarding them on a regular basis. Instead, friendship is implied through action, and yes, occasionally words as well. A person knows they are my friend because I make time for them in my life. I ask them for help when I need it and am happy to return the favor. For me, if you read a manuscript between myself and the people I consider to be the most important in my life, you might not think we liked each other at all, but insults and sarcasm are our way of showing affection. So, when I write, I am not going to have my characters state their feeling outright at all times, but I know how they feel.
As a reader, I am able to see this subtext as I read. Everything the author puts into the story, every word they give to their characters, every action right down to the smallest gesture, I see it all. Not only do I see it all, but I am able to play it again and again, reading things as often as I want and seeing new things each time. Every time I read, there are new words to find, new layers of subtext. Because I spend so much time reading, I start to feel like I know more about the characters than the writers do. It’s like the friends you have in high school. Their parents gave them life, and sent them out into the world, but you, their close friend know things about them their parents never will. I mean really, how many of us told things to our best friends that we would never tell our parents?
So, who is right? The writer or the reader? Do I, as the creator have the right to take the story in whatever direction I choose or does the reader have a right to expect a level of satisfaction from their story when they reach the ending? Who can claim a greater ownership of the story?
I suppose at the end of the day it doesn’t matter. When I write a story, I consider it mine and when I read a story, I consider it mine too. Whatever others think of the story belongs to them, and that is their business. When people get things wrong, I have a right to be angry, and I guess that means you have a right to be angry with me when the time comes.
(Quick disclaimer, I am not talking about the recent finale for Pretty Little Liars that I saw upset people. I have not seen it, and I would really appreciate if no one told me!)