If you were to take three people and put them all in the same room, and then give them all the exact same book to read; then I’d imagine the results would go something like this:
Person #1 (we’ll call her Betty) will dive right in. She’ll be sitting up straight with eyes wide, and slightly moving her lips in excitement while she reads. Betty will occasionally bounce her knee as she tries to contain the building energy, and then at the end of the book her lip will turn up in a satisfied smirk. After nodding her head in agreement with the way the plot line unfolded, Betty will sit back, fold her arms, and recall her favorite parts of the book. Patiently, she’ll wait for the other two slow pokes in the room to finish up.
Person #2 (She’ll be Joan) will sink into the seat provided, wiggling at the waist and shrugging her shoulders until her body is completely relaxed. She really only came for the free donuts you offered anyways, so she’s hoping the book is at least good enough to make it worth her while. Joan does love to read, and is actually quite sharp, but isn’t very easily impressed. She looks over the cover, reads the explanation on the back of the book, and glances over the index before jumping in. The first chapter sparks her interest, and that’s refreshing, so she’s able to make it through the book easily. Not as quickly as Betty, obviously, but without trouble nonetheless.
Joan’s expression remains flat and irritatingly unreadable. She’s a blank slate, and although her poker face gives nothing away, the wheels in her head are spinning. Joan loves that the story line makes her think, but somehow the characters just don’t fit. They’re detached and the emotions aren’t felt. Ultimately Joan gives the book a measly three and will never give it another thought. But, she’s glad she came because she was actually able to get through it, and the donuts were delicious.
Person #3 (Lets name her Daphne) Can’t wait to devour the pages of this book. It’s her favorite genre and she’s been looking forward to the read all morning! Daphne leans forward, pressing her elbows into her knees, and giving the book her complete and utter attention. By the time Daphne gets half way through the story her face is twisted in anger. You may as well go now to fetch some armor and a shield, because the daggers are coming and they’re sure to be sharp!
The book is well written and has drawn her in, but one of the characters in particular has just flat out pissed Daphne off. So much so that every time she reads his name the straight line of her lips tightens. If Daphne’s eyes were laser beams then there’d be nothing left of the pages in her hands but smoke and dust. She takes breaks to distance herself from this jerk of a character. While doing so she eats extra donuts and glowers at Betty and Joan, wondering what in the hell they are so interested in. Daphne fights the urge to rip the book right from Betty’s hands and shout at her, “What the hell are you smiling about? This guy’s an a** hole!” Eventually, she is able to sit back down and force her way through the ending.
At the end of the day, it didn’t mater that all three readers were of the same age or gender, they are different people, with opposing opinions, and altered perceptions. As writers, it’s imperative that we understand this truth about our work. It’s also important to realize that it doesn’t necessarily matter OUR perception in the creative process either, because our readers are inevitably going to make what they will of the characters and the plot points. The story line will always remain the same, but the emotions felt, the images pictured, and the way character personality traits are relate able or not will always contain alterable perception.