Experimental Fiction and the Reader

Another great post here on experimental fiction-
http://htmlgiant.com/craft-notes/the-higgs-jameson-experimental-fiction-debate-part-2/

I’d have to say,  Christopher Higgs is putting into words things I’ve been thinking about for the last few years. I’ve noticed a tendency for writers to be only concerned with writers, and the writing side of things, and not seeing the reader as a part of the experience of a novel. It seems odd to me that writers assume readers will have this exact experience that they wanted to have, and if they don’t have it, then the reader is reading wrong.

Or if I try to discuss literature, all of a sudden I have a ton of writers telling me what they do  and why they do it and the whole aspect of the reader is missing. It seems to me that writers see the reader as some ghost, who will listen and obey.

This is wrong. Experimental fiction, IMHO, is partly trying to free the reader of the dictatorship of the writer. It fills the stories with holes, with empty spots for the readers to fill. It makes shadows out of normal, linear text, it creates places of anarchy, places of fire and light. The reader isn’t forced along a simple thread, their hands tied behind their backs, blinders on either side of their head, looking forward…forward…

In experimental fiction the chains are dropped and freedom is let loose. The reader has no choice but to participate in the act of the novel/story/narrative. The reader brings the book to life, to light, inserts their own thoughts and imaginations.

Here’s the thing: fiction, writing down as forms of poetry, stories, etc, are not visual mediums, they are not physical mediums. They do not have one single image the reader must envision. Even if it’s non experimental- the communication is done with signs, with symbols, with scratches of thoughts in the form of empty signposts. The reader brings in their own memories, thoughts, and images, they fill in these signs, putting in their own experiences into the novel.

An experimental writer acknowledges this, and gives them even more freedom than they probably ever wanted. Readers: Throw off your shackles! Writers: let your readers breathe. Don’t tell them everything, don’t tie everything up, don’t force them from point to point b. Leave holes in your text, leave shadows for the reader to wander down.

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