Guest Post: Wording and the Art of Interpretation by BC Brown

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Check out our vibrating plows!

This is the sign I see one day while driving outside of a lawn and garden equipment rental business. Of course, I didn’t see the large business sign declaring, first, that this statement belonged to a lawn and garden equipment rental place. What I notice is the large, multi-colored lettering declaring this place has vibrating plows. Immediately my brain jumps into hyper-drive, all things, um, gutteral, shall we say. And I’m left wondering, as my eye catches on the business’s primary sign, if the person who designed this slogan for the day worded it thusly intentionally? Could their intent have been to conjure a naughty school-boy response to one of their products? I wonder. Or is it a simple matter of “speaking” without thinking.

Clearly, such a thing as vibrating plows exists. As indicated by the picture to the right here. And, again clearly, these people probably do rent this lawn and garden equipment. But was there a better way that could have been used to describe their inventory if a little more thought had been put into the wording ahead of time and people’s potential reactions to it?

B.C., you’re being silly. Not everyone would jump to this naughtiness like you did.

That’s probably very correct. But the sad thing is that enough people could and would misinterpret the words on this business’s sign. But, perhaps, one example is not enough. Try this one on for size.

While driving down the road on vacation a few years back, I pass a muffler and auto repair shop. The typical auto shop related items are out front – vehicles in all manner of disrepair, oil stains on the pavement, and a stack of tires set out inticingly to lure in buyers who are in no actual need of tires – but it’s the sign that really catches my attention.

 No muff too tuff.

No joke. This sign is right out for the world to stop and gawk…while driving down the downtown business district in an extremely large, heavily-commuted city. And, of course, with this bold, declarative statement of vast interpretation, people do stop and stare. Or, at least, drive very very slowly trying to puzzle out if they’ve read this public sign correctly.

So what does this have to do with writing, B.C.?

Writing is the very essence of word interpretation. We take our thoughts and feelings, our emotions and experiences, and inscribe them for all to see in print, for all time. However, whether a writer is truly good at his/her craft, well, that depends how those words are interpreted by the reader.

I once heard someone say (and I can’t remember who or else I’d quote them directly and give them credit for such a brilliant statement) that ‘English teachers, often, put more thought into a book than the author/s did.’ This declaration made me laugh out loud. Then it made me stop and think. Because, often times, this statement is very true. How many of the classic Greats, do you think actually sat down with the intent of the story they were writing conveying a certain emotion? Probably not many. If the Greats are like most writers (and I’ve always pictured them thusly), the story they were trying to write (whether the Great was Hemingway or Bradbury or Palahniuk) was probably burning up their brains, demanding to be put on paper (or screen). There was plenty of emotion going into the project, no doubt, but it was most likely the need to get the words out of their heads as fast as their brains were supplying them.

The important thing was that the Greats were/are thusly named because they were/are masters of their craft. Without direct intent, they can convey emotions to the reader without having to consciously think on the matter. What makes them even better is that, later, whilst editing, they can then further hone those emotions by re-reading their work and selecting exactly the right words to make their emotion abundantly clear without leaving open-ended interpretation of their words.

The entire point of my rant today is that wording is very important. The right words can whip a crowd into a frenzy of emotion, whilst the wrong words can whip them into the opposite frenzy…you know, the one you totally didn’t intend but that the crowd interpreted from the words you decided to choose to make your statement or your novel. As writers it’s our job to pick the right words to make our points abundantly clear and to leave as little open to interpretation as possible.

 About the Author

BC Brown Promo 2013BC Brown is the author of A Touch of Darkness and A Touch of Madness, both Abigail St. Michael novels. Her work has been included in three, multi-author anthologies – Fracas: A Collection of Short Friction, Quixotic: Not Everyday Love Stories, and A Chimerical World: Tales of the Seelie Court. She has published a dark fantasy novel, Sister Light, Book One: Of Shadows previously under the pen name B.B. Walter.

She lives in Arizona and on tequila and gummy bear-related products. She spends her free time bicycling, performing in Community Theater, and spends way too much time on karaoke, Star Trek, and Doctor Who. She is legendary for her mismatched sock collection. Her foul mouth and lack of filter has gotten her into hot water in the past. She will no longer discuss the “big booty ho” incident of 2012.

BC has upcoming work with the Abigail St. Michael novels entitled A Touch of Emptiness. More of her work will be released in a general fiction novella entitled Feather in a Hurricane and a dark fantasy novel, Of Shadows.

2 Comments

  1. Thanks for having me and my naughty mind, Samantha!

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