March 11, 2014

Do You Hear What I Hear?

by Gary Fearon, Creative Director, Southern Writers Magazine

Don't worry, this isn't a three-month late Christmas post.  But "Do You Hear What I Hear" is a fitting theme song for something I and a few writers were reminded of this weekend.

A friend was telling us a story involving his neighbor's very big dog.  The dog had come into his yard and his two young sons (three and five) were playing with it.  Things got out of hand and soon the dog had his three-year-old on the ground, pinning him down in what seemed a threatening manner.

Spotting this, our friend rushed to the scene and kicked the dog away, yelling an obscenity or two.  Don't worry, the child was fine, and for that matter, so was the dog.  The children started crying, however, more upset at their father's scary outburst than any canine threat.

After he told this story, we would discover that each of us listeners had honed in on a different detail:
One of us was worried about the three-year-old (granted, we all cared, but we already knew the child was unharmed).

One of us wanted to scold people who let their dogs run loose.

One of us was shocked that our friend kicked a dog.

One of us was surprised that he swore in front of his little kids.

Me, I wondered what his wife had to say when she heard about all this.
What becomes evident in even the telling of a simple anecdote, is that each of us puts our own spin on things we hear.  Coming from different backgrounds and having agendas that are uniquely individual, we interpret things according to our personal filter.

Part of the fun of seeing movies with friends is that we all come away with different perspectives to share.  One may point out ironic parallels in the arc of a secondary character, while another may focus on foreshadowing that the rest of us missed.

Basically, each of us will always hear what speaks to us.  Likewise, our readers will be selective in what they take away from our writing.  As communicators with a story or message to convey, we stand the best chance of reaching everyone on their level by presenting our ideas and scenes with enough clarity that they discourage misinterpretation. 

Welcome even celebrate the many and varied trains of thought your words are likely to trigger.  As long as your main points hit the bull's eye, that's as good as any communicator can ask for.

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