Friday, September 12, 2014

Tone, Intention, and the Typed Word

With a recent post to Facebook, I started thinking about how easy things can be to be misconstrued. I tend to be one of those super polite people who say "Sorry" even if you were the one who ran into me, so I hate to ever think there is a possibility that something I've said could be interpreted in a bad way. Facebook, text messaging, chat screens, email, they all take away the personable side of communication. Where in conversation I might be able to say to one of my friends, "Shut your face!" and be able to inflict the right level of tone and humor into my voice to let them know I'm just expressing my disbelief and not telling them to literally stop talking. In a text environment, that emotional aspect is removed. You have no control over the way the reader will interpret the words you type. You have no idea what has happened in their lives that day, month, year, that might have put up a filter over their eyes and leaves the most innocent expression open to be misconstrued.

In the particular example I'm thinking of there was nothing bad that came of it. I posted about how waiting was sometimes the hardest part of being a writer (as regular blog vistors would know from my blogging about it in the past) and it wasn't until one of the beta readers for my current novel commented on the post that I realized there was a very distinct possibility that my update could have been seen to be a nudge along for information. Now don't get me wrong, it was all perfectly innocent above board messages. There was no negativity about it at all from either side, and I was probably just being overly cautious (it's that whole saying sorry when I'm tripped up thing). However, it did make me wonder about the possibility for misinterpretation. It was a little reminder that what you mean to express and what is understood can be two vastly different thing.

Of course the same can applies to novels, only there, you can give the reader hints and clues about how people interpret information, and about how the speaker intended it to be taken. There's still a risk for misrepresentation by the reader (and always by the characters, because let's face it that's half the fun) but it's greatly minimized because the reader is provided with all those emotional clues that are entirely absent in other written formats.

Even on this blog, I occasionally worry that some little statement will be misinterpreted. At the end of the day though, I can only be me and this is who I am :)


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