One-half of our mother/daughter duo was enjoying a ten-day vacation, and the other half was tasked with the care and feeding of Carpenter Country’s canines. The instructions were clear: Serve doggie dinners first, and when the bowls were licked clean, present each tail-wagger with a treat of two cookies.
Each night, the routine was the same. Happy dogs polished off heaping helpings of healthy food and waited impatiently for the promised treat of two crème-filled sandwich cookies distributed from the package on the shelf over the dog food supply.
On the eleventh day, when the cookie package was empty, the vacationer returned home. “Thank you for taking such good care of the dogs,” she said the next evening. “But I have to ask – did you eat all the cookies?”
“Of course not,” was the reply. “I gave them to the dogs, just like you said. Two cookies each night as a treat.”
A moment of silence, then, “That wasn’t what I said.”
An important part of communication is making your message clear to your listener. And yet, no matter how clear you believe you are, what you say may not be what your listener hears. The same is true in writing, with the added disadvantage that your story must speak for itself, since you are not there to add additional explanations. If your message isn’t clear, the reader will abandon your book, and possibly leave a bad review as well.
Does that mean you have failed as a writer? We think the answer is no. You have no control over what your reader “hears” from your writing. You are responsible for what you say, not for what others understand. At the same time, by listening to feedback that tells you what others think they are hearing, you have the opportunity to improve your writing.
In the case of the dog cookies, the confusion arose because each of us interpreted the word “cookie” differently. The vacationing half of us meant cookies made for dogs – dog biscuits – not for-human-consumption sandwich cookies. The miscommunication was minor, and resulted in delighted dogs, as well as the insight that no matter how well you believe you communicate – or listen – there’s always room for improvement.
How do you make sure your readers hear what you mean to say? Let us know in the comments.
Florida-based mother/daughter author duo HL Carpenter writes sweet, clean fiction that is suitable for everyone in your family. The Carpenters write from their studios in Carpenter Country, a magical place that, like their stories, is unreal but not untrue. When they’re not writing, the Carpenters enjoy exploring the Land of What-If and practicing the fine art of Curiosity. Visit HLCarpenter.com to enjoy gift reads and excerpts and to find out what’s happening in Carpenter Country.
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