Monday, May 27, 2013

Are You Really Paying Attention When You Read A Book?

Have you ever had this experience? Someone reads your book and they write a review of it. Somewhere in the review they mention something that happened in the book. You read the review and think, But . . . that didn’t happen!

I was reading a review of The Faerie Guardian on Goodreads earlier (yeah, I know. We can have the discussion on whether reading reviews is a good thing or not another time!). It was a positive review (and I’m very grateful to the reviewer for the time she took to read the book and write the review), but somewhere in there she mentioned she'd figured out something that Vi hadn't. It was obvious that Character A and Character B were the same person, and it should have been obvious to Vi too. And I sat there with a big question mark over my head thinking, But . . . Character A and Character B are NOT the same person!

These aren't major characters, so her misunderstanding wasn't a big deal, but I still wondered how she ended up confused. I went back to the book and read the scene where Character A was mentioned to see if there was some ambiguity, but no. Putting the details together, there's no way that Character A could be the same as Character B.

So then I got to thinking . . . how many times have I done this?! I read before I go to sleep at night, which means I'm pretty much always tired when I'm reading. I'm sure my exhausted brain has reached conclusions that authors never meant for me to reach. If I've reviewed any of your books and written something that didn't actually happen, I apologize!

PS - This also happened when I gave my very first novel (not published) to my best friend to read. Her comments were positive, but she added, "I wish your love-interest was dark-haired. I just can’t imagine him as a blond."
And I said, "Um, he's not blond. He has dark hair."
She didn't believe me. I had to search the manuscript for the part where I wrote about his features and show it to her! She didn't know how she'd missed that!


13 comments:

Adriana Dascalu said...

When reading I love the action scenes and the characters' lines, but reading is different from book to book.

As a reader, I might love the book so much that I hurry to finish it and find out what happens and I might misunderstand something. Or, because I love the book too much I read 10 times more concentated that I end up remembering passages from the book.

If I don't like the book, I just give it up ;)

I think when a reader misunderstands something in your book it's because they end up loving the characters so much that they "see" them in some amazing situations, they give your characters lives outside your books' pages. It's quite a beautiful thing!

Sheena-kay Graham said...

Mistakes happen, what matters is whether or not they enjoyed the book. Also it's great she left a review, too few people do that these days.

Annalisa Crawford said...

That's interesting - to be honest, I probably do that all the time. Does that mean I'll have to go back and read every book just to make sure...? It probably does, doesn't it?

The Words Crafter said...

Huh. Now I'm thinking back on the reviews I've done...usually, though, I MISS things. Especially if the book is good. I tend to read faster and faster, trying to see what happens without cheating. And often, I miss details....

Nick Wilford said...

I would probably take this as a good thing, the characters made such an impact that the reader went off and made their own connections about them - how they wanted it to be. It makes me wonder if I've done this myself. There's such a lot going on in a book that readers may well get stuff mixed up sometimes - I mean most of us do that when actually writing them!

Cathy Keaton said...

LOL! I've had critique partners missing out on details I actually put in my MS's, too.

I probably do it, too, with my reading because I read right before I go to bed, as well, which I should stop doing.

Sabrina A. Fish said...

Everyone has their own way of seeing things and it translates to interpretation of books as well. I look forward to seeing how people interpret my books, someday.

SA Larsenッ said...

Interesting topic, Rachel. I've experienced both incidents. Really makes me think, right now. I think sometimes readers (myself included) subconsciously bring in personal experiences aka interpretations of personal experiences as they read. This can sometimes lead to an askew view of the actual story.

Emilyann Girdner said...

What an interesting topic Rachel. I try to really take my time reading, because I am notorious for missing those kinds of things. However, it happens to the best of us, which is why I don't nit-pick books. Because I know it is easy to miss a detail, and I know the author spent a lot of time planning (therefore it is likely I am the one in error), I focus on my overall enjoyment :) I think most people approach books that way. Thanks for bringing up the interesting discussion. Hope you are well :)

Tara Tyler said...

my editor did the same thing with a minor feature. i figured i needed to restate it again to emphasize, but readers also get an image of characters in their heads, sometimes it doesnt conform... katniss from the movie is not how i pictured her...

Cherie Reich said...

I've done that before, even though I like to think I have a decent memory. I know I'm consistently checking back through my own writing even to make sure I have details correct.

Arlee Bird said...

I think this kind of makes a case against detailed physical descriptions of characters. I want to know who's who and not what they look like. The descriptions are often distracting and they don't register with me.

But yeah, I read half the time with only half my mind involved. I'm like that watching movies too. One think makes me think of another and before you know it my mind is wandering.

Lee
Wrote By Rote

Rachel Morgan said...

Thank you, everyone, for your thoughtful additions to this discussion! I think we've probably all unintentionally got the wrong impression at some point or other when reading!