Well since launching my writing website (as humble as it may be) with links to my completed short stories, I’ve been feeling quite elated. This and all the congratulatory messages from friends and relatives has started to make me feel like I’m on my way to being a ‘proper’ writer. What’s that? (A subject for another blog entry, I think.)
Feedback on my latest published story, ‘An Okay Day’, although full of positive comments, has surprised me. The whole time I spent writing this story, there was no doubt in my mind that it was a story about a rape. But it would appear that this is not the way most readers have interpreted it.
Considering this, immediately took me back to some of my English Literature classes (a million years ago!). One of the common questions we students were always asked when analysing poems by one of those famous old English poets such as John Betjaman, Ted Hughes or William Blake, was:
“What do you think the author meant by the line …?”
When I was new to this, my immediate thoughts (never voiced, of course) were simply, “Who knows?” followed by, “…and he’s dead, so we can’t even ask him.”
I never imagined that anyone would come away after reading ‘An Okay Day’, thinking it was a story of seduction and, to be quite honest, I find this curiously disturbing, just as I find rape.
One of the key lessons here for me as a writer, is that you can never be sure that the message you are trying to convey in your writing will be interpreted or understood as you intended it to be. Clearly we all have our own psychological make up and ways of seeing the world and this is what we use to interpret information we are confronted with ‒ even if it is fiction.
This is one of the reasons why I find getting feedback from readers so interesting and enlightening.
For now, I’ll comfort myself with the knowledge that my story, ‘An Okay Day’, would make a very good contribution as a piece of introductory reading to initiate debates on issues around rape.