Last week, the ‘Front Page of the Internet’ went insane. Again.
This is the perfect time to talk about ownership, authorial intent, and why you have no control over what your audience thinks. And, hell, why not start a discussion?
Congratulations! After decades of laboring and volumes of edits, you’ve finished your Magnum Opus. And you know this one, THIS ONE, is going to change the world.
You, dear writer, are finally going to make an impact so large that people will know your name for aeons to come.
However, unless you are a master of psychological persuasion AND the written word AND you can predict the future, collective imagination of humanity, you do not get to decide how your work is interpreted.
Last week, users of Reddit, (“The Front Page of the Internet”) a social media/news/link aggregate site, were in an uproar over recent changes in administration. These changes, while drastic on their own, weren’t communicated to thousands of volunteer moderators on the site, and in reaction to this, dozens of the most popular subreddits have ‘gone dark.’
They’re taking a stand. For the moment, anyway.
A few weeks before this, there was more outrage at subreddit bannings. Something about freedom of speech versus harassment? Again, it was a big deal at the time, and the repercussions probably haven’t finished repercussing.
What does Reddit drama have to do with us writers?
Social media has been gaining importance in the literary world, for dozens of reasons. How many of you have advertised your own pieces on your blog, or through twitter (Speaking of which, you can download my free Sci-fi short story here)?
But right now, we’re concerned with another important aspect of the drama. Authorial intent.
When you wrote your (imaginary) Magnum Opus, you had goals in mind. Your readers were going to walk many miles in your characters’ shoes. At the end, your readers’ lives would be changed once they’d seen the whole story come together (‘Wow! Maybe I, too, could fall in love with a robot!’ or something like that).
At least, that’s how we want it work.
“The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”
As a writer, you don’t get to choose how your readers read your work. You don’t get to choose what they think, you don’t get to choose what they agree with or what they disagree with.
Readers don’t care about what you want to say.
Readers care about what they read, and what they understand, and what leaves an impression on them.
It doesn’t matter if the recent Reddit admin changes are in the best interests of Reddit and all it’s users – redditors are pissed off.
It doesn’t matter what Magic Mike XXL is telling us about society’s views on the male physique (this is just an example, OK? I haven’t seen it, and I have no idea what it’s about).
Authorial intent will always matter. But that doesn’t mean your audience will see what you want them to see.
As you are writing your own stories, are you thinking about how to make your audience understand your intent? How does your intent guide the way you write? How important is authorial intent to you?
Write your thoughts in the comments below. Don’t forget to like, follow, and share this to some other place on the internet (maybe even Reddit? HAH).