What You Think I Meant is Not What I Said

12 May

I have a book out that is a story inspired by actually events that took place during the Vietnam War. The story was “inspired” by the events, not taken from the actual events. That means that I took a story that someone told me and then created my own story loosely based on that original story. I found the original story so intriguing that it triggered a round of “what if’s” in my mind and poof….a new story was born. That new story is a work of fiction. So why then do I get emails asking if the story is a metaphor for the war in Vietnam? Or a metaphor of the times we live in now? Or a statement about war in general? The answer…because people need to get a life.

No matter what you create, if you get published there will be a sector of people out there who are trying desperately to get something else out of your story. We live in strange times when people seek out the “hidden message” in absolutely everything…it’s frustrating. Sometimes blue curtains are just blue. Remember in English class when the teacher would give you an assignment to read a story and then gleam the “meaning” off of it? I hated those assignments because, in my mind, I was being asked to get inside the authors head instead of just enjoying the story. When tasked with something like this reading becomes work and frankly, I don’t want my reading to be work. Sometimes a story is just….well….a story.

Sometimes, as writers, we can fall into the trap of trying to insert metaphors where there ought not to be any. If you are struggling to create a story where there is a hidden meaning….stop it. It has been my experience that if a writer has more to say within a story it will eventually come out. Just because the main character is staring at the blue curtains doesn’t mean that he is depressed or secretly wishes for a male child….sometimes he’s staring that the blue curtains for an entirely normal reason like they are ugly or maybe…just maybe….they are the only curtains in the room he is standing in and the story actually lies beyond the curtains…outside the window. Getting hung up on the “meaning” behind the blue curtains can cause you to never look outside the window!

So here’s the deal….sometimes what you think I meant (or any writer for that matter) is not what I said. Maybe instead of focusing on the “hidden meaning” that many not actually be there…maybe you should just read the damn story and enjoy it. Yes there are some writers out there who struggle to assign meaning to a piece but they obviously have way too much time on their hands and are not actually interested in telling a good story but instead want to somehow “enlighten” their readers. More power to those folks but if you find yourself trying to force the metaphors…stop it. Just tell the story and let the reader see what they want to…trust me…they are gonna do that anyway because in this day and age we are all just a little paranoid. I’m off to get a sandwich because I’m hungry….or maybe I’m not hungry, maybe I am in some kind of emotional pain that is causing a hole in my soul….nope….just hungry. (See what I mean?)

© The Writer’s Advice, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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Posted by on May 12, 2023 in Writing


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