This past Sunday, the Catholic church celebrated Pentecost, which is the feast that occurs 50 days after Easter and commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit on the disciples. They now had the strengthened faith to go and preach the Gospel. Our priest’s homily pointed out that the disciples were gathered together because they wanted to celebrate the Jewish feast of Pentecost.
I had not known this feast began as a Jewish celebration, which traditionally is remembered as when God gave the Ten Commandments to Moses. The feast recalls God’s communication with His people.
Pentecost celebrates the same thing for Catholics; the Holy Spirit came down as tongues of fire and the disciples listened. They went out to preach to everyone. So Pentecost is the miracle of communication between God and man. It’s a reminder the communication happens all the time. Not just on big feast days.
How does this relate to writing?
In communication (or writing), there is a speaker and at least one listener. The speaker must be clear about his point. This is why there are grammar rules and language. A collection of sounds or scribbles without an agreed upon meaning of the words (whether spoken or written) would not be communication. Speech and writing are the methods humans use to communicate.
So clarity is the duty of the speaker, but the other person also has a duty. To hear or read and comprehend. In fiction, this is called the willing suspension of disbelief.
The reader knows that what is on the page isn’t real. She agrees to set aside her disbelief in order to enjoy a story in which she hopes her emotions will be engaged and her experiences enriched. It is possible the author doesn’t provide these due to a lack of skill. But if the reader refuses to suspend her disbelief, it is not the author’s fault. A reader can be unable to enter into the fictive dream due to cynicism about the topic, hate of some kind, or a close mindedness about something triggered by the author’s words.
This doesn’t mean the reader is wrong in her thinking. Just that not every story will be able to touch every reader successfully.
But when a story works, the miracle of communication occurs.