Pages

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Miscommunications means missed communication and missed opportunity

 Me after the wedding

Recently, I almost missed a friend's wedding.Bruce mentioned work and then mentioned the wedding and I fused the two conversations in my mind. So I believed Bruce was going to the wedding of the daughter of a co-worker whom I'd never met, much less the daughter. Bruce thought it odd I didn't want to go, but I'm all grown up and can make my own decisions. Then a couple of nights before the wedding, Bruce mentioned something about our friend going to the wedding and I asked, "Why is he going?" When Bruce said, "Because it's his daughter getting married, of course," I was all, "Ohmigod, of course I'm going too!"

This story illustrates how easy it is to miscommunicate and miss the communication and miss an opportunity all in one. This happens more often than you'd think, even in fiction. Ask yourself how many times you've been stopped while reading something and thought, "What does that mean?" Or, "I don't think the author meant those words the way they do mean."There's where the communication has been missed. And the opportunity? Why, to keep the reader reading, of course! Getting bumped from a story is never good and can be catastrophic.

So how to avoid this problem? Beta readers and critique groups both are great--if they are the readers and groups that give solid feedback. Also, set aside the draft and return to it after a pause and you'll find a lot of these mis-communications. Finally, I have a friend who reads everything aloud and swears it works best. This, however, has never worked for me and drives me crazy.

What do you, dear writers, to avoid the dreaded "mis"?


7 comments:

Jim Murdoch said...

You take all reasonable steps, the key word being ‘reasonable’. The ideal reader for all my books is me. He thinks I’m great. I say things exactly the way he would and don’t prattle on needlessly. Anyone else is going to be at a distinct disadvantage and so I’ve come to accept that what I write and what people read are two different beasts. That doesn’t mean that people don’t like what I write – some like it more than I do and that makes me wonder what they’re bringing to the table that makes it so good – and some clearly don’t see beyond the basic story but that’s fine too if they’re happy with that and a lot of people are. The one path I have no intention of going down is the one where I treat my readers as idiots and feel I need to explain everything to them; you have to treat your reader with a bit of respect and hope they rise to the challenge. If they don’t then it was the wrong book for them: the list of wrong books for me is far longer than the list of books I’ve connected with.

Caryn Caldwell said...

Those are great solutions. I'll especially second the beta readers/critique partners, except they have to be careful enough to catch those details and honest enough to mention them instead of just glancing through and telling you, "Great job!"

Conda V. Douglas said...

All good points, Jim. The writer has to balance the need to create an experience with the reader with the need to keep the writer's voice.

Conda V. Douglas said...

Yes, Caryn, that's critical that you have people who "do the work" and also (see Jim's comment) know how to read/critique. Those people are gold!

Enid Wilson said...

That's quite a big miscommunication. Luckily you sorted it out. There's an ad here which showed the wife wanting to discuss income protection insurance with the husband but he was looking at his laptop and said, very funny elephants. I can sense a divorce coming...

Every Savage Can Reproduce

Conda V. Douglas said...

Yes, Enid, and such a simple one, I just figured the prior conversation was still going on! Luckily I didn't figure it out after the wedding!

Kathy McIntosh said...

I have a great critique partner. Also as Jim mentioned, there's only so much you can do. Some people totally miss when I'm trying to be funny; others see humor where I was dead serious. As long as they keep reading...