How do we decide a story is ready for publication? If we proofread, edit, and tinker with the story, deciding it reads smoothly and makes enough sense to be read by others, is that enough? NO? Apparently not. I have difficulty with this. I wrote a story this week, ‘Writing For Carol,’ about someone who writes for the image of a random girl on the internet, basing the story’s content on what he imagines this girl would like judging from her photo. Then he encounters this girl on the subway and his story takes an entirely different shape as he stalks her to glean more information about his potential audience.
I contrived an ending where the piece of writing the narrator submits for Carol’s edification is not a story obsessively tailored to her reading requirements, but an honest account of the narrator’s devious acts, plus an apology and entreaty. I felt this represented an emotional breakthrough for the character, who had been an unreliable narrator up until this point, and conveyed a general truth about writing ‘for’ a particular group of people—writing needn’t be contrived for an audience, it should simply be as honest and direct as the author can be, with no pretence or deception. All good.
But is it enough? If I write a story over several days, is that enough time? I suppose the most important questions are what does this story achieve? what does this story do that is unique? do I achieve the aims I have for the piece? So can I answer all these questions? Well, I wanted to explore the reader-writer contract on a micro-level, the mania that comes from thinking about the eyes that might scan our words and seeking to please the owners of those eyes. If we could view our audience like musicians, would that make writing easier? Would we riff out metaphors and do long descriptive solos like Clapton twiddling on his Stratocaster? Throw in a moving description of a beautiful creature to attract the women?
And build a story into this. I am happy with the story, but I have no idea what is “good enough” these days. Anyway, there I am, posing with a nut. Life is good.