There’s some famous micro-story that goes something like, “Baby shoes for sale. Never used.”
As a mom, my immediate thought was that the parents forgot about getting the shoes because they were sleep-deprived, and the shoes ended up buried at the bottom of a drawer during the week the baby was the right size to fit into them — I have all sorts of baby items that were never used for that very reason. Heck, I was rather shocked when I realized that most people were so morbidly eager to mentally kill the baby based on so little. Ya sickos.
Writers cannot control what the readers imagine and assume while they read. They can appeal to the mainstream and draw on the experiences that people try to conform themselves to, but there’s always going to be someone who takes away something different.
I recently watched a movie, where some guy was wondering whether or not he was engaged to the right woman. Some other man decided to chip in, and talked about how he had been married for over 20 years, then went on to tell about how long ago he had met the most perfect woman ever and fell madly in love right there and then, but then was separated from her a couple of days later. The first guy was like, “So how did you find your wife again?” and the second guy replied, “I didn’t. That woman isn’t my wife, but I always think about her.” Cue sentimental music.
And I was like, “Wow. You are a horrible person for forcing your wife to live in the shadow of a fantasy for over twenty years, instead of appreciating her.” I definitely didn’t take away the message that I was supposed to.
I read reviews for books, and often see wildly different reactions to the same story. Where some people see virtue, others see emotional blackmail. Where some see strength and empowerment, others see discrimination and marginalization.
For me, that’s part of the magic of writing: everyone experiences the same story differently.
I think that it’s something writers should embrace.
Instead of seeking singular control over everyone.