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How do you manage to draw my imagination in so well that any problems, or stresses I may have at that moment in life go away? How do you manage to keep me reading and not watching TV, or playing games or other things I have done so often?

-- Submitted Anonymously

OSC REPLIES: - March 12, 2001

The reason a story works particularly well for a reader is not entirely contained within the story -- nor does it come entirely from the author. If you felt a particular affinity for a story of mine, it is at least partly because you yourself were ready for that story, and even more because you were willing to open yourself so thoroughly to the story that it was given the chance to move you.

When a writer creates a story, it is important to keep in mind that the written story is only a tool, which the writer creates and gives (or sells!) to the reader so that the reader can use it to create a living story in his or her own memory. It is the story in the mind of the reader that matters. So in creating your own stories, you are performing an act of communication -- it is not enough to think of stuff that you care about and believe in, you must also present it in a way that will be clear, believable, and interesting to the reader. But to which reader? Ah, there's the rub. Because the story that intrigues one reader will utterly bore another; the story that one reader believes, another will doubt. You can't please all at once. All you can do is try to create as clear a written account as you can of the kind of story you and your "ideal reader" will care about and believe in. And then hope that your ideal reader actually exists -- and in enough numbers that it will be worth the expense to someone of publishing it!

So I appreciate the fact that you have been one of those "ideal readers" for some of my stories ... and I wish you well in creating stories that will reach out for your own ideal readers in turn.

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