What You Think You See

looking out my dorm room window with L.
looking out my dorm room window with L.

“You’re that girl who walks around her room naked,” the guy said.

“What?” I asked. For dinner I’d agreed to sit with a friend at his fraternity table. I didn’t know the guy asking the question.

“You live on the 6th floor,” he said. “Facing our dorm.”

The other guys looked at me. “That’s not me,” I said.

“That’s you?” said another guy.

“No. It is not,” I said. My friend laughed. “It’s probably the girl next door to me,” I said. She looked a lot like me. She was the type to walk around her room without any clothes on and the curtain open. Though that felt unfair to say.

“I know it was you,” the guy said. “It’s cool, you know.”

My face burned red. I didn’t know how to convince he was wrong. I didn’t want to tell the truth–I would never have just walk around my room like that. I didn’t want to sound like a prude. But I didn’t want to sound that… carefree either.

“You think what you want,” I said.

When you read a novel, how much does it influence how you see the author? After reading Stephen King, what do you think about him? Or Margaret Atwood? Nora Roberts? JK Rowling? Neil Gaiman? Mark Twain? Put your favorite author here. How much of a novel should you apply to its creator?

Does knowing about a writer’s real life help or hurt your reading of her fiction? When you share your work, do you ever worry how it will reflect on you?

9 thoughts on “What You Think You See

  1. people say the darndest things to you! You could do a whole memoir on stuff people have said to you, no kidding 🙂

    I never think about the author, actually. And I don’t worry too much about what people will think of me based on what I write. I’ve got a clear boundary there. I dont know why, since I struggled with boundaries in personal relationships for much of my life, but maybe learning how to stop doing that, helps me now as a writer.

    1. I could never decide if I was a magnet for people who say weird things or if I was imagining things. Good for you having a boundary. I’ve got a lot trouble with that.

  2. Sometimes it makes it more interesting to know an author’s story and personality and intimate details, but I think in general it does take away from it.

    The stories rarely make me see the author in a certain way, now that I think about it.

    1. If a writer’s life overwhelms the work, that is not good. I think though it depends on what they write. It may be easier to draw conclusions about people who write in certain genres than those who just write straight fiction. But I could be wrong.

  3. I have to confess, the way I think of a writer may or may not be influenced by what they write; for Stephen King, I just knew I loved his writing. I got much bigger insights about him when I read Danse Macabre and On Writing, and those things did nothing to detract from my opinion of him.

    What hurts them more — or any celebrity, I suppose — is when they give too much information. About them, their beliefs, opinions, whatever. But again, depends on who it is.

    I have no idea if what I write paints a picture of me to the readers. I’d never even considered that. You do a lot of that to me — make me think about things I’d never thought of before. How dare you make me think?!? 😉

    1. Yeah, I get uncomfortable when a writer (actor/singer/artist etc) voices certain opinions or ideas that I find…well, I can like someone I disagree with, but then again there are certain views that would change my appreciation for their work.

      But I’m thinking more of what people assume about a writer just from the fiction if they have nothing else to go on. I worry about this–pointlessly.

  4. Interesting question – for me it’s sometimes the other way around – when author’s say some things it is more likely to influence my opinion of their work, much like actors.

    But the work influencing my view of the writer? Hmmm. I think sometimes it does, if I have to go with a knee-jerk response. Only because I believe that there are times the author’s views come through their work.

    1. If I learn too much about a writer before I read his or her work–yeah, it can color my opinion. It can even stop me from picking up a book at all. I worry about this with my blog. I mean, I’d like to be open to all readers, but I might say something to turn a potential reader off. Well, that’s life. Not everyone is going to like me or the work. Still, I want to have a chance.

      okay. Now I’m rambling. Thanks for your bit in this conversation.

  5. Aside from the questions of seeing the author’s life in the work, and vice-versa, I couldn’t help seeing a second layer in this story. Which is, roughly: If someone were to mistake your work for someone else’s (or vice-versa, I guess), would you correct them? Like, sure, after committing N thousand words to the page, no one writes quite like anyone else. But for someone sort of squinting at your writing from a distance, would it bother you or please you if they said — maybe even openly — Oh, I know you. You’re the one who wrote X. That’s okay. It’s cool, you know.

    Would you correct them, even if X was a writer you admired? If so, would you correct them out of modesty (“Oh, my story is so inferior to what X would have done with it”)? Would you just let it go (“Think what you want”)?

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