Hamlet is a muffin.
If you subscribe to the theory that readers are the ones who make texts meaningful, that is. And if you decide to read Hamlet as a muffin.
Most of you will probably be directing strange looks at the computer screen right now, and rightly enough. What on earth is she going on about, I hear you say.
All shall be revealed...
See, I was thinking the other day about what happens when we read a text, and what happens when we write a text, and what happens when we read the text we've written, and give it to someone else to read what we've written. Because here's the thing: not everything we hold in mind when we're writing a text makes it onto the page, and not everything we hold in mind when we're reading a text is on the page.
As readers, we inject some meaning into the text. This is, in fact, the basis of the Reader Response theory, which, while I don't agree with all of it, certainly makes more sense to me than the other common theory, New Criticism.
So the question is then, how much of the meaning is put in by the readers, and how much by the authors? Does it matter, for example, if someone reads your work such that your MC looks completely different to how you imaged? What about if they read it as being about something you never considered? About something horrible and derogatory? About something enlightening and meaningful?
If we were to get really post-modern here, we could say that every reader has the right to read our books however they like. But that's problematic: Hamlet isn't a muffin, after all. There's some common ground between what the author envisages, and what the reader does.
Interestingly, the next step my brain took when thinking about this was to apply the concept to notions of objectivity and subjectivity. Postmodernism (in some forms) holds that reality is subjective; there's no objective reality, only what we experience. But as an author, as someone who's had experience putting meaning into a text, and watched people draw something different out, this is my conclusion: It's not reality that's subjective, but rather our perception of it. There are facts, there are events, but as we perceive them we skew them with our opinions, our history, our background.
Back to writing: what are the facts of our story? What are the events, the reality, the stuff that actually happens? And how do we colour that when we describe it, giving it flavour and life?
Go through a few pages of one of your stories: How much of your work is 'reality' (in the context of what actually happens in your story), and how much is 'perception', either yours as the author or a character interpreting an event?
Where do the good stories lie?
And in the end, how much does it matter if our readers get something different out of what we're writing?