"He pinched the bridge of his nose as he ran out of ideas."
For a long time, I had no idea what this phrase meant when I read about it in books. I read the words "pinch" and "nose" and imagined someone pinching their nostrils like something smelt badly. I knew characters did this when they were feeling frustrated, but I had never, personally, understood why a character would stick their head up in the air and pinch their nostrils when they were feeling frustrated. It seemed more like something someone would do when they were being stuck-up or something they would do when another character farted (which never happened.)
I've never pinched the bridge of my nose when I was frustrated, which is probably why I didn't get that pinching the bridge of your nose is pinching the top of your nose. I'd always be drawn out of the story and I still am now that I get it because I make fun of myself for not understanding it before.
One of the hardest things about writing is commuicating with the reader. You're not supposed to spell anything out to them. You're supposed to show them the events of the story rather than tell it to them. You can't say a character is sad, you're supposed to instead show their tears. Don't talk about a character thinking something is funny, instead describe their laughter. But you can't always describe them as crying or laughing because then your descriptions get too repetitive and in reality, everyone's body language varies more than that depending on the situation. And the more unusual the body language is, the more likely there will be a misunderstanding.
It's part of the reason why everyone gets something different out of reading the same novel. We all take our own experiences and understandings to a book. But it also makes it difficult for the writer sometimes when we're trying to portray a certain message.
One of the most embarrassing and funniest misunderstandings I had while reading a book was when I was a child. There was a female character named Al. Most people would read it as a nickname for Alexandra, but I read it as if it said A-One. I mean, the two look very similar depending on the font: A1 and Al.
My Dad got so confused when I read the book out loud to him and got into an argument over how the characters name was pronounced.
"A-One like the steak sauce?" my Dad asked. "I'm pretty sure that's not how you pronounce it."
But I was stubborn and wouldn't listen.
Do you have any other similar stories about how someone read your novel or how you read a novel and misunderstood something?