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Word of God

Q. Isn’t authorial intent important in terms of communication between reader and writer?
A. But it ISN’T a conversation between you and me if all you’re doing is attempting to understand what I’m saying. That’s just you LISTENING to me, which is kind of boring.
Like, don’t get me wrong, that act of listening to art/media can be pleasantly distracting and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it. That’s essentially what watching an episode of NCIS is, I’d argue: The show knows who killed the person and you don’t and then at the end they tell you.
But I think what happens when you read a book—ideally, anyway—is much more complicated and beautiful and collaborative. My intent as an author matters some, but you as the reader get some agency, too. You get to discover meaning within the story, and sometimes the meaning you discover will be meaning I hoped you would discover, and sometimes it will be meaning I could never have imagined you discovering. But together, we get to build something that matters to you (hopefully), and that brings you pleasure and consolation and a feeling of unaloneness that you can never get from merely listening.

Sauce. Contrast this with my usual stance that the author has no say after the book is finished. I kinda like his position. Plus I just really like Mr. Green.


  • I think the author has no ability to enforce their will, and reader no obligation to take any of it. But I certainly give them room to add content, context, clarity and extra flavor to shape a work outside of the Exhibit A work itself. I wouldn't call that material canon in the strictest sense but certainly I'll consider it the definitive answer to any disputes in narrative interpretation. But that's the real question I suppose, do we have the agency to say "screw your canoe" And interperet a result counter to the explicit story because "I prefer it this way"?
  • I tend to take three passes in lit crit.

    1. Author is dead
    2. Author's life and history as context
    3. Author's word

    Always in that order. It usually leads to three different, but interesting analysis takes.
  • Holy shit this took me too long to realize this wasn't a thread about this game:

  • When I expound on storytelling, I like to take a hard line about the exact meaning of "story."

    You ever get into that ego-masturbating philosophical discussion about the meaning of music? "If a genius composer plays a song that nobody else ever hears and that he never records nor reproduces in any fashion, has he made music?" I hear this about stories as well.

    I say that storytelling - be it oral or visual or written - requires an audience. Without an audience, you're just engaging in thought exercises - valid, but not a story. When you tell a story, you engage the audience and establish a sort of thought transaction - you present your idea, and they interpret and modify it to fit their view of the world.

    In that fashion, the "story" is the idea or memory that is created in an exchange of thoughts between an author and an audience.

    In live storytelling, this exchange can happen several times, and the result is that each telling of a story is a wholly unique experience. I've come away from different audiences with a different understanding of my own material, and stories can evolve over time in this way. Likewise, different audiences remember the stories (and the tellings) differently, and their versions evolve over time. The downside is that this is exceedingly ephemeral - no particular iteration of your story will survive very long, and thus the only ideas that can be extracted are those that are created and remembered in a fleeting interaction.

    This happens even with written stories, but the process is a bit slower. Less direct audience engagement means that each iteration of the material can be explored more completely.

    The really neat thing about letting your audience inform your story - and the entire reason to present stories - is that someone else can tell you something about your material that you had never considered. We like to think that authors know what they're writing, but the truth is that nobody fully understands the extent of the material they present.

    There is no "word of God" in any story medium.

  • Best Word of God:
  • And on the Seventh Day, He finished Page the Second.
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